Posts

Supermarkets Purge Plastic With Shoppers’ Help

Plastic Free Zone at Thornton’s Budgens showcases organic vegetables, 2018 (Photo courtesy Thornton’s Budgens) Emailed for media use.

Plastic Free Zone at Thornton’s Budgens showcases organic vegetables, 2018 (Photo courtesy Thornton’s Budgens) Emailed for media use.

LONDON, UK, November 8, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – A London supermarket today became one of the world’s first to introduce dedicated Plastic Free Zones. The Thornton’s Budgens store in Camden’s Belsize Park has assembled more than 1,700 plastic-free products and displays them in marked zones.

The zones are stocked with everything from fresh fruit and vegetables to bread, cheese and wild game such as squirrel and wild boar, as well as packaged food and drink products.

The products showcase a wealth of innovative plastic-free materials such as beechwood nets, pulp, paper, metal, glass, cellulose and cartonboard.

Signage and shelf talkers tell shoppers about the packaging to encourage them to make plastic-free choices. The zones are identified by plastic-free branding signs created by London design studio Made Thought.

The British nonprofit A Plastic Planet, a social impact movement for change, worked in partnership with Thornton’s Budgens to create Plastic Free Zones.

Sian Sutherland, A Plastic Planet co-founder, said, “Plastic is totally nuts. Thornton’s Budgens are disrupting the market and showing that wrapping something as fleeting as food in something as long-lasting as plastic is the definition of madness.”

“In just 10 weeks the store has removed plastic packaging from more than 1,500 products, finally giving their customers the choice they want,” said Sutherland. “While big retailers claim it will take 10 years to create real plastic-free change, Thornton’s Budgens has shown that we can start to wean ourselves off plastic in 10 weeks.”

A Plastic Planet has called for an urgent transformation of the UK’s entire approach to waste management. Their goal is to inspire everyone to turn off the flow of plastic.

Andrew Thornton, Thornton’s Budgens Founder, said, “As the community supermarket that really cares, we believe in taking a strong stance on major issues that affect our wellbeing and our planet.”

“The issue of plastic is one that can no longer be ignored so we’ve chosen to be the first mainstream supermarket in the UK to introduce Plastic Free Zones. This means our customers will be able to do a comprehensive shop without the need to use any plastic packaging.”

“Our aim is to show the big supermarkets that it is not as difficult to go plastic-free as they think,” said Thornton. “If we with our limited resources in 10 weeks can introduce more than a thousand plastic-free products just imagine what the major chains could achieve.”

A Plastic Planet is calling for the Conservative minority government of Theresa May to use the new UK plastics tax to fund a national infrastructure that mandates both recycling and composting.

On October 30, the May Government announced a tax on plastic packaging. The tax will apply to any business that produces or imports plastic packaging that does not contain at least 30 percent recycled content.

The government proposed the new tax in its autumn budget. Revenues from the tax will be used to address single-use plastics, waste and litter.

In addition, the UK announced 20 million pounds in funding to increase recycling and combat plastic waste.

The announcement follows the UK’s ban on plastic straws, drink stirrers and cotton buds as part of a growing effort to decrease the country’s plastic pollution and protect its rivers and seas. These single-use items are only used for a few minutes but take hundreds of years to break down.

The government says the ban on plastic straws, drink stirrers and cotton buds follows its success in charging for single-use plastic bags, which has resulted in an 86 percent decrease in plastic bag distribution in supermarkets.

Plastic-free shops are popping up elsewhere too.

The world’s first plastic-free supermarket aisle was unveiled in Amsterdam, Netherlands in February.

With nearly 700 plastic-free goods to select from at one of the branches of Ekoplaza, a Dutch supermarket chain, the aisle gives shoppers the opportunity to buy their groceries in “new compostable bio-materials as well as traditional materials” such as glass, metal and cardboard.

Sutherland said the aisle is “a symbol of what the future of food retailing will be.”

“We totally understand what we’re asking for is highly inconvenient – it’s difficult,” she told CNN. “However, it’s indefensible for us to continue to wrap up our perishable food and drink in this indestructible material of plastic. So everybody knows now that progress has to be made.”

Ekoplaza, which has 74 stores across the Netherlands, intends to introduce the plastic-free aisle across all its branches.

In Vancouver, the first package-free grocery store in Canada, Nada, was incorporated in 2015 after marine biologist Brianne Miller had an idea that would completely change her relationship with food.

Miller had seen firsthand the masses of harmful plastic swirling around in ocean gyres, much of it food packaging waste. She realized that even the most ethical, local, and organic stores were still caught in a cycle of waste. So, she created Nada – a different kind of store – with no plastic packaging at all.

The first customer to shop at waste-free NADA Cafe, East Vancouver, Canada. Founder Brianne Miller, center, in black. October 22, 2018 (Photo courtesy NADA) Posted for media use.

The first customer to shop at waste-free NADA Cafe, East Vancouver, Canada. Founder Brianne Miller, center, in black. October 22, 2018 (Photo courtesy NADA) Posted for media use.

Nada operated with just pop-up shops for the first two years, then launched its first retail store in 2017.

Customers bring their own containers to stock up on local, fresh, responsibly-sourced, and organic groceries and personal care items. They use Nada’s digital smart scales to weigh and label their purchases and automatically deduct the weight of the containers.

Not only do shoppers reduce their packaging waste, they waste less food by buying only what they need. This saves them money – an average of C$1,500 per family per year, Nada claims.

On october 22, Nada opened a waste-free cafe at the store and in the first two weeks diverted 950 single-use containers/paper bags and 740 disposable cups from the waste stream.

In Toronto, Canada’s largest city, a new package-free goods store, Bare Market opened its first pop-up shop June 27 at the Bathurst-Finch Hub’s Farmers’ Market.

“You can get basically anything you need like at a grocery store or supermarket, but all package free,” says Maya Goodwill, a Bare Market spokesperson.

Founder Dayna Stein was inspired to launch Bare Market while living in Vancouver, where she shopped at the city’s first refill shop, The Soap Dispensary.

Bare Market encourages shoppers to bring their own containers. If people forget their containers, they can purchase them from Bare Market, or borrow a reusable container for a refundable fee.

Bare Market hopes to open a permanent location in 2019. Until then, they’ll be popping up all over Toronto.

Zero-waste shops are catching on all across the United States. Celia Ristow, the co-founder of the grassroots group Zero-Waste Chicago, has started the website Litterless, which features a state-by-state directory of U.S. grocery stores featuring foods in bulk that permit shoppers to bring their own packaging.

On her blog, Ristow speaks of the joys of plastic-free living, “The most unexpected benefit of zero waste for me has been how much it has meant learning to lean on myself, my friends, and my community, and how much doing so has improved my life. So much of what is sold to us as convenience can have the effect of encouraging us to believe we can’t do things for ourselves, that the things we need can only be found in stores. Choosing to try to buy less and to waste less means taking back some of that power.”

Featured Image: Thornton’s Budgens supermarket bakes its own bread in house and packages it in paper to cut down on plastic waste. 2018 (Photo courtesy Thornton’s Budgens) Emailed for media use.


163ad07d-189d-4e08-95ca-87fbc588eba2-original

Climate Change Could Shock Global Food Markets

A pile of corn purchased at Kurtkoy Market, Istanbul, Turkey, June 19, 2009 (Photo by CCarlstead) Creative Commons license via Flickr

A pile of corn purchased at Kurtkoy Market, Istanbul, Turkey, June 19, 2009 (Photo by CCarlstead) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

SEATTLE, Washington, June 13, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – The warming climate is likely to result in increased volatility of grain prices, maize production shocks and reduced food security, finds new research published Monday in the U.S. journal “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.”

Volatility in the global grain market creates uncertainty for farmers and agribusinesses and can lead to price spikes that reduce access to food, warn researchers at the University of Washington, Stanford University and the University of Minnesota.

Corn, or maize, is grown more widely than any other crop. Used in food, cooking oil, livestock feed and vehicle fuel, corn is essential to the lives of billions of people. Price spikes could throw poorer people into hunger.

In their study titled, “Future warming increases probability of globally synchronized maize production shocks,” lead author Michelle Tigchelaar and colleagues estimated the probability of such shocks in maize production under future climate warming.

The study used global climate projections with maize growth models to confirm previous research showing that warmer temperatures will negatively affect corn crops.

“Previous studies have often focused on just climate and plants, but here we look at climate, food and international markets,” said Tigchelaar, a UW postdoctoral researcher in atmospheric sciences.

“We find that as the planet warms, it becomes more likely for different countries to simultaneously experience major crop losses, which has big implications for food prices and food security,” she cautioned.

Under 2°C of global warming, estimated mean yields declined, and yield variability increased worldwide, particularly in the United States, Eastern Europe, and sub-Saharan Africa.

The top four corn-exporting countries – the United States, Brazil, Argentina, and Ukraine – collectively account for 87 percent of global corn exports. Currently, the probability of all four of these countries experiencing simultaneous yield losses greater than 10 percent of the present-day mean yield is negligible.

But the authors estimate that the probability of such simultaneous losses might increase to seven percent under

2°C warming and to 86 percent under 4°C warming, triggering a higher frequency of international price spikes.

“When people think about climate change and food, they often initially think about drought,” Tigchelaar said, “but it’s really extreme heat that’s very detrimental for crops. Part of that is because plants grown at a higher temperature demand more water, but it’s also that extreme heat itself negatively affects crucial stages in plant development, starting with the flowering stage and ending with the grain-filling stage.”

The authors write that their results “underscore the urgency of investments in breeding for heat tolerance.”

“Even with optimistic scenarios for reduced emissions of greenhouse gases, results show that the volatility in year-to-year maize production in the U.S. will double by the middle of this century, due to increasing average growing season temperature,” said co-author David Battisti, a UW professor of atmospheric sciences.

“The same will be true in the other major maize-exporting countries,” he said. “Climate change will cause unprecedented volatility in the price of maize, domestically and internationally.”

The authors say their results emphasize the importance of aggressive carbon dioxide emissions mitigation and also breeding crops for improved heat tolerance. Efforts to pursue new agricultural technology to ensure food security for a growing global population would be worthwhile, they say.

 Vegetable display at the farmers' market, Hollywood, Florida, April 29, 2017 (Photo by Yellow Green Farmers Market) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Vegetable display at the farmers’ market, Hollywood, Florida, April 29, 2017 (Photo by Yellow Green Farmers Market) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Vegetables Shrivel as Climate Heats Up

A separate study, also published Monday in the “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,” finds that the global production of vegetables and legumes could be “significantly reduced through predicted future changes to the environment.”

Led by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), this research is the first to systematically examine how increases in temperature and reduced water availability could affect the production and nutritional quality of common crops such as tomatoes, leafy vegetables and pulses.

If no action is taken to reduce the negative impacts on agricultural yields, the LSHTM researchers estimate that the environmental changes predicted for the second half of this century in water availability and ozone concentrations would reduce average yields of vegetables by 35 percent and and legumes by nine percent.

In hot settings such as Southern Europe and large parts of Africa and South Asia, increased air temperatures would reduce average vegetable yields by an estimated 31 percent.

The researchers conducted a systematic review of all the available evidence from experimental studies published since 1975 on the impacts of changes in environmental exposures on the yield and nutritional quality of vegetables and legumes. Experiments were conducted in 40 countries.

Previous research has shown that raised levels of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide could increase crop yields, but this study identified for the first time that these potential yield benefits are likely to be canceled out in the presence of simultaneous changes in other environmental exposures.

Dr. Pauline Scheelbeek, lead author at LSHTM, said, “Our study shows that environmental changes such as increased temperature and water scarcity may pose a real threat to global agricultural production, with likely further impacts on food security and population health.

“Vegetables and legumes are vital components of a healthy, balanced and sustainable diet and nutritional guidelines consistently advise people to incorporate more vegetables and legumes into their diet,” said Dr. Scheelbeek. “Our new analysis suggests, however, that this advice conflicts with the potential impacts of environmental changes that will decrease the availability of these important crops unless action is taken.”

To lessen the risks that future environmental changes pose to these crops, researchers say that innovations to improve agricultural production must be a priority, including the development of new crop varieties as well as enhanced agricultural management and mechanization.

The LSHTM study was funded by the Wellcome Trust as part of its Our Planet, Our Health program.

Dr. Howie Frumkin, who heads Our Planet, Our Health at Wellcome, said, Improvements in agricultural technology have dramatically boosted the world’s food production over the last 80 or so years. But we mustn’t be complacent. Environmental changes, including more chaotic weather patterns and a warming climate, threaten our ability to feed the world’s people.”

“Some of the most important foods, and some of the world’s most vulnerable people, are at highest risk. This research is a wake-up call, underlining the urgency of tackling climate change and of improving agricultural practices,” said Frumkin.

The authors acknowledge the limitations of the study, including the shortage of evidence on the impact of environmental changes on the nutritional quality of vegetables and legumes. The research team identified this as an area requiring more research.

Professor Alan Dangour, senior author at LSHTM, said, “We have brought together all the available evidence on the impact of environmental change on yields and quality of vegetables and legumes for the first time.”

“Our analysis suggests that if we take a business as usual approach, environmental changes will substantially reduce the global availability of these important foods. Urgent action needs to be taken,” Dangour demanded, “including working to support the agriculture sector to increase its resilience to environmental changes, and this must be a priority for governments across the world.”

Featured images: A cornfield flourishes in Pennsylvania, July 18, 2010 (Photo by fishhawk) Creative Commons license via Flickr


Live Online Training

COP23 Fertilizes Climate-Smart Agriculture

COP23LeadersHighLevel

COP23 leaders, from left: UNFCCC Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa of Brazil; President Emmanuel Macron, France; Frank Bainimarama, prime minister of Fiji and COP 23 president; Chancellor Angela Merkel, Germany; and UN Secretary-General António Guterres at the opening of the High-Level Segment of the conference, November 15, 2017 (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) Posted for media use

By Sunny Lewis

BONN, Germany, November 21, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – New commitments and initiatives in the agriculture and water sectors were announced as nearly 200 countries gathered at the United Nations Climate Conference (COP23) hosted by the government of Fiji in Bonn, November 6-17.

Delegates made concrete progress on turning the historic 2015 Paris Agreement into action on the ground across the world, ahead of next year’s UN climate conference in Katowice, Poland.

COP23 delegates aimed at motivating greater climate action by public and private stakeholders as the Paris Agreement, adopted in 2015, enables countries to combat climate change by limiting the rise of global temperature below 2 degrees Celsius and strive not to exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius higher than pre-industrial levels.

About one degree of that rise has already happened, increasing the pressure on governments and the private sector to progress further and faster to cut the greenhouse gases responsible for global warming.

For the first time in the history of UN climate negotiations, governments reached an agreement on agriculture that will help countries develop and implement new strategies to both reduce emissions from agriculture and build resilience to the effects of climate change.

“Agriculture is a key factor for the sustainability of rural areas, the responsibility for food security and its potential to offer climate change solutions is enormous,” said Christian Schmidt, Germany’s federal minister of food and agriculture.

Investing more quickly and broadly in agricultural climate action and to support the sustainable livelihoods of small-scale farmers will unlock much greater potential to curb emissions and protect people against climate change, sector leaders and experts said.

New COP23 initiatives include a US$400 million fund established by the Government of Norway and the corporation Unilever for public and private investment in business models that combine investments in high productivity agriculture, smallholder inclusion and forest protection.

The European Investment Bank will provide US$75 million for a new US$405 million investment program by the Water Authority of Fiji. The plan will strengthen resilience of water distribution and wastewater treatment following Cyclone Winston, the world’s second strongest storm ever recorded, which hit Fiji in February 2016.

The Green Climate Fund (GCF) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development signed up to free US$37.6 million of GCF grant financing in the US$243.1 million Saïss Water Conservation Project to make Moroccan agriculture more resilient.

The nonprofit World Resources Institute announced a landmark US$2.1 billion of private investment to restore degraded lands in Latin America and the Caribbean through Initiative 20×20.

“Climate change is a fundamental threat to the Sustainable Development Goal 2 that aims to end hunger, achieve food security and improve nutrition,” said José Graziano da Silva, director-general of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)  at a high-level event on hunger at the conference.

“To achieve SDG2 and effectively respond to climate change, we require a transformation of our agriculture sectors and food systems,” he said.

According to FAO’s “State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2017” report, hunger has grown for the first time in over a decade, mainly due to conflicts and climate change. An estimated 815 million people are now hungry.

Extreme climate impacts come down hard on small-scale farmers and pastoralists as well as fishing and forest communities, who still provide the bulk of the planet’s food.

Supporting these communities with innovative solutions to reduce their emissions and protect their communities meets many of the objectives of every one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

Over 70 percent of the world’s extreme poor live in rural areas. They are also the most vulnerable to hunger and malnutrition, natural resource scarcity, conflict, and climate impacts.

“The rural poor are part of a comprehensive response to climate change,” said da Silva. “They are key agents of change who need to be strengthened in their roles as stewards of biodiversity, natural resources and vital ecosystem services.”

Requests to direct more resources to the agriculture sector as a key strategy to meet the goals of the Paris Climate Change Agreement and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development were made during Agriculture Action Day November 10.

“Countries now have the opportunity to transform their agricultural sectors to achieve food security for all through sustainable agriculture and strategies that boost resource-use efficiency, conserve and restore biodiversity and natural resources, and combat the impacts of climate change,” said René Castro, FAO assistant-director general.

In the livestock sector, for example, FAO estimates that emissions could be readily reduced by about 30 percent with the adoption of best practices.

At COP23, the FAO released a new “Sourcebook on Climate-Smart Agriculture,” which recommends scaling up public and private climate finance flows to agriculture, spurring public-private partnerships, strengthening a multi-sector and multi-stakeholder dialogue, investing in knowledge and information, and building capacity to address barriers to climate action.

The book features knowledge and stories about on-the-ground projects to guide policymakers and program managers to make the agricultural sectors more sustainable and productive, while contributing to food security and lower carbon intensity.

The COP23 meeting agreed that land needs to be managed in ways to increase soil carbon, particularly in grasslands, and that robust protocols for assessing and monitoring carbon stocks need to be developed with stakeholders.

Rehabilitating agricultural and degraded soils can remove up to 51 billion tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere, according to some estimates.

For the livestock sector, FAO estimates that emissions could be readily reduced by about 30 percent with the adoption of best practices.

Tom Driscoll, director of conservation policy with the U.S. National Farmers Union, says, “Farming is one of the few professions with the ability to not only reduce ongoing greenhouse gas emissions, but to also remove existing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. National Farmers Union supports policies and programs that maximize agriculture’s GHG elimination potential by offering value to farmers for either climate-smart or emissions-reducing and carbon-sinking production and conservation practices.”

Cap-and-trade programs, which limit ongoing emissions from major sources of greenhouse gas emissions, are one means of offering farmers value for climate-smart practices.

Cap-and-trade programs can drive emissions reductions where they can happen in the most cost-effective manner, and farmers can often achieve emissions reductions and sequester atmospheric greenhouse gases for less money than the emitters these programs primarily regulate, says Driscoll on the NFU website.

The state of California has implemented a cap-and-trade program that allows for the creation and transfer-for-value of offset credits that meet regulatory criteria. Regulated entities may meet up to eight percent of their triennial compliance requirements by purchasing these credits.

In California, each credit must be quantified using a compliance offset protocol approved by the California Air Resources Board. Currently, ARB will approve credits some U.S. farmers create by capturing and destroying methane from manure management systems.

The Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC), an organizer of COP23’s Agriculture Action day, announced that the Coalition will work in the next few years to create the conditions for greater agricultural climate action.

The voluntary partnership of more than 100 governments, intergovernmental organizations, businesses, scientific institutions and civil society organizations aims to help give countries the confidence to set realistic yet ambitious targets through the next revision of their national climate plans – the Nationally Determined Contributions.

“Agriculture is a large source of powerful greenhouse gases like methane and other short-lived climate pollutants but has great potential to store carbon and reduce greenhouse gases in our lifetime, that’s why we support and advocate for countries to improve their livestock emissions inventories,” said Helena Molin Valdes, head of the CCAC Secretariat.

CCAC partners signed onto the Coalition’s Bonn Communiqué which prioritizes initiatives to reduce methane and black carbon emissions from agriculture and municipal solid waste.

These initiatives support broader efforts to reduce air pollution, end hunger, and build sustainable cities and communities, while helping to limit global warming.

James Shaw, New Zealand Minister for Climate Change, said he was pleased with the Communiqué’s focus on agriculture as it was a large source of his country’s greenhouse gases.

“We hope this encourages partners to develop policies to reduce emissions from agriculture, while at the same time improving the productivity, resilience and profitability of farmers,” said Shaw.

Other agriculture-based solutions for addressing climate change were also presented at COP23. Discussions involved people from governments, civil society, the private sector, small scale and young farmers centered on livestock, traditional agriculture systems, water, soil, food loss and waste, and integrated landscape management.

Among the recommended actions and initiatives were to:

  • Scale up public and private climate finance flows to agriculture, and use them in a catalytic manner. Climate finance flows continue to favor mitigation over adaptation, and focus overwhelmingly on energy systems and infrastructure. These imbalances should be addressed.
  • Incentivize public-private partnerships. Strong dialogue and collaboration between the public and private sectors is key to ensure alignment between public policy and private sector investment decisions in agriculture and throughout the entire food system.
  • Strengthen a multi-sector and multi-stakeholder dialogue towards more integrated approaches to landscape management. This will require enhanced coordination of policy and climate action across multiple public and private entities.
  • Invest in knowledge and information. Additional analyses are needed to better identify the institutional barriers and market failures that are inhibiting broader adoption of climate-resilient and low-emissions agricultural practices in individual countries, regions and communities.
  • Build capacity to address barriers to implement climate action. Agricultural producers require additional capacities to understand the climate risks and vulnerabilities they face, and respond accordingly.

In the water sector, most national climate plans with an adaptation component prioritize action on water, yet financing would need to triple to US$295 billion per year to meet such targets, said experts at COP23.

“Sustainable use of water for multiple purposes must remain a way of life and needs to be at the center of building resilient cities and human settlements and ensuring food security in a climate change context,” said Mariet Verhoef-Cohen, president of the Women for Water Partnership.

The international water community co-signed what it called a “nature based solution declaration” to encourage the use of natural systems in managing healthy water supplies.

Around 40 percent of the world’s population will face water shortages by 2050, accelerating migration and triggering onflict, while some regions could lose up to six percent of their economic output, unless water is better managed, warned Verhoef-Cohen.

She said, “Involving both women and men in decision making and integrated water resources initiatives leads to better sustainability, governance and efficiency.”


2-DAY GRANT

Featured Image: G.H. MUMM champagne 2017 harvest in champagne vineyard near Verzenay, France, September 7, 2017 (Photo by Intercontinental Hong Kong) Creative Commons license via Flickr

What’s That in Your Fruit Salad?

 Fruits and vegetables for sale at Le Marché de Noailles, Marseille, France, October 1, 2014 (Photo by kixmi71) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Fruits and vegetables for sale at Le Marché de Noailles, Marseille, France, October 1, 2014 (Photo by kixmi71) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

BRUSSELS, Belgium, October 12, 2017 (Maximpact.com  News) – A pregnant woman eating a salad of fresh fruit grown by conventional agriculture in the European Union may think she is providing healthy nourishment to her future baby, but in fact she might be exposing it to a cocktail of endocrine disrupting chemicals.

In an effort to protect women like her, the EU’s 2009 Pesticide Regulation was the first to address endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) as hazards. It requires the European Commission to establish a set of scientific criteria to identify which chemicals have endocrine disrupting properties by December 2013 and to remove them from the market.

But more than three years past the deadline, endocrine disrupting pesticides are still used in agriculture without restrictions. This means that they end up as residues in food, and people are exposed to them on a daily basis.

Eating the residue of endocrine disrupting chemicals sprayed as pesticides on fruits and vegetables has, in scientific studies, been linked to altered reproductive function in both males and females, increased incidence of breast cancer, abnormal growth patterns and neurodevelopmental delays in children, as well as changes in immune function.

A joint United Nations – World Health Organization study issued in 2013, the most comprehensive report on EDCs to date, links exposure to EDCs and health problems such as non-descended testes in young males, prostate cancer in older men, developmental effects on the nervous system in children, attention deficit disorder and hyperactivity in children as well as thyroid cancer.

Of special concern are effects on early development of both humans and wildlife, as these effects are often irreversible and may not appear as serious adverse effects and disease until later in life.

But which chemicals act as endocrine disrupters? Arriving at a list of criteria to answer that question has been difficult.

On October 4, the European Parliament rejected the Commission’s latest attempt at defining criteria for endocrine disrupting pesticides with 389 of the 694 MEPs voting No.

For the first time, the Parliament used its democratic right of “scrutiny,” the right to block a Commission proposal, which was based on World Health Organization criteria to identify endocrine disruptors,

The Commission now must change the proposal, working together with the representatives of the Member States in the Standing Committee.

The rejected criteria proposal has been characterized as scientifically unfit to protect people from the potential harms caused by endocrine disrupting chemicals.

With the vote, the criteria proposal was deemed unlawful, as the Commission went beyond its legislative power in implementing an exemption from the Pesticide Regulation for non-target organisms.

Following Parliament’s rejection, the Commission is now expected to delete the last paragraph of the draft criteria proposal, which introduced an exemption for pesticides designed to disrupt target pests’ endocrine systems even if these were causing endocrine disruption and consequent harm to non-target creatures.

This was not in the Commission’s mandate and contradicts the requirements of the pesticide regulation that specifically calls on regulators “not to approve substances that are considered to have endocrine disrupting properties that may cause adverse effects on non-target organisms” (Annex II, 3.8.2).

After the vote, Health and Food Safety Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis of Lithuania said he strongly believes that in this case “no deal is a bad deal for EU citizens.”

He said the scientific criteria propsed by the Commission “would have ensured better protection of human health and the environment as well as served as a stepping stone to a wider strategy on endocrine disruptors.”

The vote means that the scientific criteria put forward by the Commission that had been supported by Member States in early July after months of thorough discussions cannot be adopted. Andriukaitis said the Commission will now need to reflect on next steps to take.

Speaking from the Parliament in Strasbourg following the vote, Irish MEP Mairead McGuinness, first Vice President of the European Parliament, said urgent action is needed.

“We need the Commission to put forward legislation on this issue, as demanded some eight years ago by the European Parliament under the Pesticides Regulation,” said McGuinness, a member of the Parliament’s Environment and Agriculture Committees.

In McGuinness’ view, the issue is a wider one that cannot just be addressed at the EU level. “We need a globalised harmonisation of what chemicals are endocrine disruptors and whether they should be completely removed from use in agriculture. It is not enough for the EU to tighten up our legislation if we do not encourage non-EU crop producers to do likewise,” she said.

“The EU imports crops from across the globe – often grown using products not allowed in the EU or products which may in future be banned. If a chemical is harmful in the EU, it is harmful elsewhere and we should work to have high global standards.

The pesticide Chlorpyrifos for example, which acts on the nervous systems of insects, is at the top of the list and has been reported to cause neurodevelopmental toxicity in humans, affecting the brains of infants and children.

“Farmers inside and outside the EU need the same level of protection and so do consumers. There is an opportunity to address this in our trade relationships with other countries,” said McGuinness.

One-third of European fruit contains 27 endocrine disrupting pesticides, reported in scientific literature to cause endocrine disruption in animals and probably in humans, according to Pesticide Action Network-Europe’s latest analysis.

The analysis was based on 2015 monitoring data of fruit and vegetables from all EU Member States, which PAN-Europe obtained through a public access to documents request.

Mandarins, oranges, grapes, and peaches are all at the top of the list, turning a healthy fruit salad into a potentially toxic cocktail.

A smaller but still important amount (17-40 percent) of popular vegetables, such as lettuce and tomatoes, also were found to contain endocrine disrupting pesticides, and several fruit and vegetables contained not just one pesticide, but up to eight EDPs per sample. Their potential for combined toxic effects has not been assessed.

A high number of fruit and vegetables produced in southern European countries such as Spain, Italy and Greece contain endocrine disrupting pesticides, says PAN-Europe, while it’s mostly the fruit and vegetables sold in markets of Northern countries like Ireland, Sweden and The Netherlands that contain these pesticides.

It appears that no country remains unaffected.

PAN Europe congratulated the European Parliament for recognizing that the new derogation was illegal and would inevitably result in pesticides designed to be endocrine disruptors to stay on the market.

The criteria already require such a high burden of proof to identify a substance as an endocrine disruptor, that it remains unclear how many pesticides, if any, will be regulated, says PAN Europe environmental toxicologist Angeliki Lysimachou.

“A matter of such importance involving our food and affecting the most vulnerable demands immediate action, and if EU regulators fail to protect us then it’s down to Member States to take action, Lysimachou said. “These chemicals have no place neither on our table, nor in the production of our food.”


Consulant

Edible Food Packaging Takes the Cake

Shrilk

Shrilk, a biodegrable plastic made from silk and shrimp shells, is similar in strength and toughness to an aluminum alloy, but only half the weight. (Photo courtesy Wyss Institute) Posted for media use

By Sunny Lewis

PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania, June 22, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – As all grocery shoppers know, many meats, breads, cheeses, cakes and cookies come wrapped in plastic packaging to prevent spoilage. But plastic films are not great at keeping foods fresh, and some plastics are known to leach harmful compounds into the food they’re supposed to protect. High-fat foods such as cheese are particularly vulnerable.

Under pressure from environmental and health groups, in 2016 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned three grease-resistant chemical substances linked to cancer and birth defects from use in pizza boxes, microwave popcorn bags, sandwich wrappers and other food packaging.

But Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook points out that the ban does nothing to prevent food processors and packagers from using almost 100 related chemicals that may also be hazardous. Although the three chemicals were no longer made in the United States as of 2011, the possibility remains that food packaging with those chemicals made in other countries could be imported to America.

In addition, humans produce 300 million tons of plastic every year and recycle just three percent. When discarded, these plastics become non-recyclable, non-biodegradable waste, contaminating city streets, rural lands, lakes, rivers and oceans.

To address these issues, scientists are now developing edible packaging for food made with food products or byproducts.

Researchers at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University  have developed a new material that replicates the exceptional strength, toughness, and versatility of one of nature’s more extraordinary substances – shrimp shells.

Low-cost, biodegradable, and biocompatible, the material is composed of fibroin protein from silk and from chitin, extracted from discarded shrimp shells. It poses no threat to trees or competition with the food supply.

Shrilk is similar in strength and toughness to an aluminum alloy, but it is only half the weight. By controlling the water content in the fabrication process, the researchers were able to produce wide variations in stiffness, from elasticity to rigidity.

As a cheap, environmentally safe alternative to plastic, Shrilk can be used to make trash bags, packaging, and diapers that degrade quickly.

“When we talk about the Wyss Institute’s mission to create bioinspired materials and products, Shrilk is an example of what we have in mind,” said the institute’s Founding Director Donald Ingber, M.D., Ph.D., who led the work that created Shrilk. “It has the potential to be both a solution to some of today’s most critical environmental problems and a stepping stone toward significant medical advances.”

In Pennsylvania, U.S. government scientists have developed an edible packaging film made from milk proteins.

A scientist with the U.S. Agricultural Research Service has a patent for her method of turning a milk

USDA chemist Tara McHugh displays edible food wraps designed to slow the spoilage of fresh fruits and vegetables. Similar wraps developed by McHugh also kill E. coli. (Photo courtesy American Chemical Society) Posted for media use

USDA chemist Tara McHugh displays edible food wraps designed to slow the spoilage of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Similar wraps developed by McHugh also kill E. coli. (Photo courtesy American Chemical Society) Posted for media use

protein into water-resistant films that can be used to coat or package foods.

The new extraction method removes the protein, called casein (say kay-seen), from milk by using carbon dioxide under high pressure. Casein, which solidifies when milk is acidified, is the main ingredient in cheese. It is used as a food supplement and as an ingredient in nonfood products including adhesives, finishing materials for paper and textiles, and paints.

Her method takes advantage of casein’s natural structure to form water-resisting films or coatings, says the inventor Peggy Tomasula, a chemical engineer at the ARS Eastern Regional Research Center in Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania.

“The protein-based films are powerful oxygen blockers that help prevent food spoilage. When used in packaging, they could prevent food waste during distribution along the food chain,” says Tomasula.

The new material remains intact when exposed to water, unlike water-soluble, protein-based films patented in the past. Tomasula says packaging films made from milk proteins are excellent oxygen barriers, up to 500 times better than low-density polyethylene, and completely food-safe.

In their presentation to the American Chemical Society meeting in 2016, Tomasula and her colleagues said the milk protein-based films repel grease, can be eaten with the food product, and dissolve easily in hot or cold water.

For these reasons, Tomasula said, “Milk-based films are ideal candidates to coat convenience food packaging; layer between synthetic films to block oxygen; coat foods to preserve them and carry additional nutrients; or, form increasingly-popular single-serve pouches, which can be either eaten or dissolved, generating zero waste.”

Flavorings, vitamins or minerals could be added to the edible coating to enhance the flavor and reinforce nutrition.

This casein coating could be sprayed onto food, such as cereal flakes or bars. Right now, cereals keep their crunch in milk due to a sugar coating. Instead of all that sugar, manufacturers could spray on casein-protein coatings to prevent soggy cereal.

The spray also could line pizza or other food boxes to keep the grease from staining the packaging, or to serve as a lamination step for paper or cardboard food boxes or plastic pouches.

The ARS research group is currently creating prototype film samples for a small company in Texas, and the development has attracted interest among other companies. This casein packaging could be on store shelves within three years.

Another USDA team, working with scientists from the University of Lleida in Spain, has improved upon an edible coating for fresh fruits and vegetables by enabling it to kill deadly E. coli bacteria while also providing a flavor-boost to food.

Composed of apple puree and oregano oil, which acts as a natural antibacterial agent, the coating shows promise in laboratory studies of becoming a long-lasting, potent alternative to conventional produce washes.

“All produce-cleaning methods help to some degree, but our new coatings and films may provide a more concentrated, longer-lasting method for killing bacteria,” says research leader Tara McHugh, Ph.D., a food chemist with the ARS Albany, California. As the films are made of fruit or vegetable puree, they also provide added health benefits such as vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, she says.

Besides apple puree, the antimicrobial films can also be made from broccoli, tomato, carrot, mango, peach, pear and other produce items. Non-antimicrobial versions of these food wraps are now being made commercially by California-based Origami Foods®  in cooperation with the USDA for use in a small but growing number of food applications, such as sushi wraps.

Manufacturers of foods packaged in glass bottles no longer have to ship their products in plastic foam. A Green Island, New York company by the name of Ecovative is making packaging made from mycelium, the root structure of mushrooms.

Ecovative’s packaging made for shipping bottles of products, such as wine or maple syrup, is grown from mycelium, the root structure of mushrooms. The custom molded protective packaging called Mushroom® Packaging is home-compostable and sustainable.

In 2015, Ecovative opened a full-scale 20,000 square foot manufacturing plant in Troy, New York for production of mushroom-based packaging.

The packaging is price competitive with most fabricated plastic foams and the company even has a Grow It Yourself Mushroom Material program to encourage open innovation.

Ecovative founder Eben Bayer blogged, “We spent a lot of time and effort conforming our natural products to existing expectations of materials to prove that we can grow natural products capable of displacing their toxic counterparts.”

“The uniform white mycelium aesthetic associated with Ecovative is a finish that naturally mimics the expanded polystyrene products that fill our landfills every day,” he wrote.

“We are committed to working with industry and consumers to rid the world of toxic, unsustainable materials,” says Bayer. “We believe in creating products that enable companies and individuals to achieve their sustainability goals, without having to sacrifice on cost or performance.”


Maximpact+WASTE

An Atlas of Sci-Art Water Diplomacy

FountainRome

Fountain of the Naiads at Piazza della Repubblica, Rome, Italy. This was originally the fountain of the Acqua Pia, connected to the aqua Marcia aqueduct, commissioned at this site by Pope Pius IX in 1870. (Photo by David McKelvey) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

BRUSSELS, Belgium, May 9, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – No longer is it true that water is a free and infinite resource as people once believed. Today conservation is essential as one in every 10 people across the European Union experiences water scarcity, according to the European Commission.

In an effort to manage water wisely so that everyone in the EU, and especially city dwellers, will have enough, the Commission has just published the first “Urban Water Atlas for Europe.

The atlas shows how different water management choices, and other factors such as food preferences, waste management and climate change affect the long-term sustainability of water use in cities.

Detailed factsheets in the Urban Water Atlas for Europe present the state of water management in more than 40 European cities and regions together with several overseas examples.

Tibor Navracsics, commissioner for education, culture, youth and sport, is responsible for the European Commission’s in-house science service, the Joint Research Centre (JRC), which produced the new atlas.

“To foster innovative water management and its public acceptance, scientific and technological knowledge must be accessible for all. The ‘Urban Water Atlas for Europe’ presents scientific and technical information in an intuitive and creative way, making it easy for everyone to understand what is at stake and act accordingly,” he said.

The atlas was presented on April 27 during the meeting of ministers in charge of water management from the 43 members of the Union for the Mediterranean, hosted by the Maltese Government in Valetta.

The publication a result of the BlueSCities project, funded by Horizon 2020, the EU research and innovation program.

In its introduction, the Urban Water Atlas for Europe reveals the pioneering concept on which it is founded – Sci-Art Water Diplomacy.

This concept first appeared in a pilot scheme in Jordan which led to the exhibition “Science and Art in Water – Water through the eyes of Jordanian children,” organized under the auspices of the Jordanian Minister for Education by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre and the partners of the Horizon 2020 Project, BlueSCities.

Schoolchildren from different countries were encouraged to consider the water problems facing their region and to describe their personal feelings through drawings. The children’s thought-provoking, yet innocent images called on society to progress

towards a more ecological, more sustainable and more peaceful future, perhaps far more effectively than any scientific treatise.

The colorful results of this exercise laid the philosophical basis for the Urban Water Atlas for Europe.

“This is another great example of how the JRC helps to deliver solutions to the challenges facing Europe’s citizens and the spaces they live in,” Navracsics said.

On the scientific side, there are two online tools linked with the atlas that can help cities manage water more sustainably.

The City Blueprint is an interactive tool to support strategic decision-making by making it easy to access and understand the results of studies and expert knowledge.

The City Blueprint given for each city is a composite index that displays 25 indicators related to water, waste and climate change in one infographic, summarizing at a glance how well a city currently manages its water resources.

This tool gives an overview of a city’s strong and weak points, and provides tailor-made options for making urban water services more sustainable.

This information is important to help identify priorities for further action and investment, but also to visualize strengths and weaknesses. The Blue City Index is the overall score based on these 25 indicators.

The City Amberprint is a tool for assessing a city’s progress towards becoming smart and sustainable.

Karmenu Vella, commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, said, “Water is an irreplaceable resource for society, but it is only renewable if well managed.”

He emphasized the critial role of cities, saying, “Home to three out of four EU citizens, cities have no other choice but to become water-wise, and better manage this precious resource. A strong water policy is also essential for delivering on Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development both in the EU and internationally.”

The atlas also presents the Urban Water Footprint of European cities, a measure of domestic water use as well as water use embodied in agricultural products consumed.

This measure aims to raise awareness of the large amount of water used to produce food and the variation in water needs among different diets. The atlas shows that healthier diets and lower meat diets could save as much as 40 percent of the water currently used to produce food.

The atlas also aims to encourage citizens to take an interest and get involved in water issues by combining the work of scientists, artists, politicians and municipal stakeholders with that of schoolchildren and teachers.

Some of the key messages in the atlas are, “Engage in true citizen engagement, employing a participatory and open approach,” and “create a legacy and a true connection between generations, from the youngest to the oldest citizens.”

The Urban Water Atlas stems from a collaboration of the Joint Research Centre with Fundació CTM Centre Tecnològic, the KWR Watercycle Research Institute, the (EIP) European Innovation Partnership on Water, and the Network for Water in European Regions and Cities, NETWERC H2O.

It follows a long tradition of other atlases produced by the Joint Research Centre, including those on soils and soil management across the globe and the European Atlas of Forest Tree Species.


Featured Image:  Woman at a fountain at Catedral de Santa Eulalia de Barcelona, Spain (Photo by Clark and Kim Kays) Creative Commons license via Flickr

CapacityBuilding

 Maximpact’s consultant network has a wide range of water experts that can help your organization with water related projects. Contact us at info(@)maximpact.com and tell us what you need.

Pesticide Alarm

AutisticKids

Children exposed to chlorpyrifos may develop autism, according to the petitioning groups. (Photo by hepingting) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

WASHINGTON, DC, April 6, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has reversed its decision to protect children from developmental disabilities and autism resulting from exposure to a neurotoxic pesticide that was scheduled to be banned in March.

President Donald Trump’s new EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt decided last week to backtrack on an Obama-era decision to ban chlorpyrifos, an organophosphate insecticide.

Chlorpyrifos was introduced in 1965 by Dow Chemical Company and is known by many trade names including: Dursban, Lorsban, Bolton Insecticide, Nufos, Cobalt, Hatchet, and Warhawk. It acts on the nervous system of insects by inhibiting acetylcholinesterase.

The problem is that chlorpyrifos also damages the nervous systems of fetuses, infants and children.

Chlorpyrifos is used around the world to control pest insects in agricultural, residential and commercial settings, although its use in residential applications is restricted in many countries, including the United States.

According to Dow, chlorpyrifos is registered for use in nearly 100 countries and is annually applied to an estimated 8.5 million crop acres.

Around the world chlorpyrifos is most heavily applied to cotton, corn, almonds and fruit trees including oranges, bananas and apples.

The pesticide also is applied to more than 30 percent of U.S. apples, asparagus, broccoli, cherries, cauliflower, grapes, onions and walnuts, among other crops.

On March 29, U.S. EPA Administrator Pruitt denied a petition to ban chlorpyrifos filed a decade ago by two nonprofit environmental groups, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Pesticide Action Network North America.

By reversing the previous Administration’s steps to ban one of the most widely used pesticides in the world, we are returning to using sound science in decision-making, rather than predetermined results,” said Pruitt, who called the pesticide “crucial to U.S. agriculture.

EPA has concluded that the science addressing neurodevelopmental effects “remains unresolved and that further evaluation of the science during the remaining time for completion of registration review is warranted to achieve greater certainty as to whether the potential exists for adverse neurodevelopmental effects to occur from current human exposures to chlorpyrifos,” says the Federal Register notice issued today denying the petition.

Pruitt took “final agency action,” which may not be revisited until 2022. Congress has provided that EPA must complete the chlorpyrifos registration review by October 1, 2022.

This is a welcome decision grounded in evidence and science,” said Sheryl Kunickis, director of the Office of Pest Management Policy at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “It means that this important pest management tool will remain available to growers, helping to ensure an abundant and affordable food supply for this nation and the world.

This frees American farmers from significant trade disruptions that could have been caused by an unnecessary, unilateral revocation of chlorpyrifos tolerances in the United States,” said Kunickis.

But the two petitioning groups are going to court in an attempt to overturn Pruitt’s decision.

NRDC and PANNA, represented in the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals by Earthjustice, filed a motion April 5 to enforce a previous court order and require EPA to make a decision on the proposed ban within 30 days.

The groups argue that EPA cannot delay its decision on the ban until 2022 because the agency has not presented any new scientific research that reverses their 2016 findings that the pesticide is dangerous and widespread on U.S. produce.

EPA is refusing to take this chemical off the market, but it is not rescinding its own scientists’ finding that this pesticide is toxic to children,” said Miriam Rotkin-Ellman, senior scientist at NRDC.

Parents shouldn’t have to worry that a dangerous chemical might be lurking in the fruits and veggies they feed their kids. The health of our children must come before chemical corporations,” she said.

Scientific studies show that exposure to low levels of the pesticide in early life can lead to increased risk of learning disabilities, including reductions in IQ, developmental delay, and behavioral problems, such as ADHD.

The Pesticide Action Network warns, “When mothers are exposed during pregnancy, their children have lower IQs, developmental delays and increased risk of autism.”

In 2011, EPA estimated that, in the general U.S. population, people consume 0.009 micrograms of chlorpyrifos per kilogram of their body weight per day directly from food residue.

Children are estimated to consume a greater quantity of chlorpyrifos per unit of body weight from food residue, with toddlers consuming the highest amounts.

Chlorpyrifos is not regulated under any international law or treaty.

PANNA and the NRDC state that chlorpyrifos meets the four criteria – persistence, bioaccumulation, long-range transport, and toxicity – in Annex D of the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants and should be restricted under this treaty.

Chlorpyrifos is used to control many different kinds of pests, including termites, mosquitoes, fire ants and roundworms.

But it has been found to be toxic to bees. Guidelines for Washington State recommend that chlorpyrifos products should not be applied to flowering plants such as fruit trees within four to six days of blossoming to prevent bees from directly contacting the residue.

Risk assessments have primarily considered acute exposure, but more recently researchers have begun to investigate the effects of chronic, low-level exposure through residue in pollen and components of bee hives.

A review of studies in the United States, several European countries, Brazil and India found chlorpyrifos in nearly 15 percent of hive pollen samples and just over 20 percent of honey samples. Because of its high toxicity and prevalence in pollen and honey, bees are considered to have higher risk from chlorpyrifos exposure in their diet than from many other pesticides.

When exposed in the laboratory to chlorpyrifos at levels roughly estimated from measurements in hives, bee larvae experienced 60 percent mortality over six days, which may partly explain why bees are dying out around the world.

Nevertheless, the American Soybean Association, an industry trade group, welcomed the EPA’s denial of the petition to remove chlorpyrifos from the market.

ASA President and Roseville, Illinois soybean farmer Ron Moore said, “The denial of the activist petition on chlorpyrifos came on the heels of statements from academia, farmers and consumers alike, all bearing out the safety of this product when used correctly and in accordance with the manufacturer’s label.

Dow AgroSciences, of course, supports U.S. EPA’s decision to deny the petition to revoke U.S. food tolerances and cancel the registration of chlorpyrifos.

The company said March 30 that it “remains confident that authorized uses of chlorpyrifos products offer wide margins of protection for human health and safety. This is the right decision for farmers who, in about 100 countries, rely on the effectiveness of chlorpyrifos to protect more than 50 crops. We will continue to cooperate with EPA under the established regulatory process in its scientific review of this vital crop protection solution.


Featured Images: Sign warning of pesticide spraying in Manito Park, Spokane, Washington. (Photo by jetsandzeppelins) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Billboard- 970x250-min-min

Become part of Maximpact’s consulting network join consultants from all around the world covering over 20 sectors of focus within sustainability and impact.

Transforming Africa

TanzaniaChildren

Children in Tanzania wait for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. (Photo by Derek Hansen) Creative Commons license via Flickr

 By Sunny Lewis

BADEN BADEN, Germany, March 21, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – Following a meeting with G20 finance ministers and central bank governors on Sunday in Baden Baden, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim announced a record US$57 billion in financing for Sub-Saharan African countries over the next three years.

KimJimYong

President of the World Bank Group Jim Yong Kim of the United States (Photo by Simone D. McCourtie/World Bank) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Kim said the fresh infusion of funds will scale up investments and de-risk private sector participation for accelerated growth and development across Sub-Saharan Africa .

This represents an unprecedented opportunity to change the development trajectory of the countries in the region,” he said.

With this commitment,” he said, “we will work with our clients to substantially expand programs in education, basic health services, clean water and sanitation, agriculture, business climate, infrastructure, and institutional reform.

Kim then left to visit Rwanda in the central Sub-Saharan region and Tanzania in the east to emphasize the Bank Group’s support for the entire region.

With a population of just over one billion people, Sub-Saharan Africa is defined as those African countries situated south of the Sahara Desert.

Economic growth in Sub-Saharan Africa remains strong,” the World Bank stated three years ago, in March 2014. “Almost a third of countries in the region are growing at six percent.

But income inequality is extreme in the Sub-Saharan region. Some of these countries, such as Nigeria and South Africa, are rich in oil or mineral wealth, but many others are desperately poor.

First Priorities: Food and Water

Earlier this month, the World Bank president issued a warning on the “devastating levels of food insecurity” in sub-Saharan Africa and Yemen. “Famine is a stain on our collective conscience,” Kim said. “Millions of lives are at risk and more will die if we do not act quickly and decisively.

We at the World Bank Group stand in solidarity with the people now threatened by famine,” Kim said March 8. “We are mobilizing an immediate response for Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen. Our first priority is to work with partners to make sure that families have access to food and water.

Much of the newly announced financing, $45 billion, will come from the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank Group’s fund for the poorest countries.

In December, development partners agreed to a record $75 billion for IDA, based on an innovative move to blend donor contributions to IDA with World Bank Group internal resources, and with funds raised through capital markets.

The IDA financing for Africa is targeted to addressing roadblocks that prevent the region from reaching its potential. The scaled-up IDA financing will build on a portfolio of 448 ongoing projects across the continent.

A $1.6 billion financing package is being developed to tackle the impending threat of famine in parts of Sub-Saharan Africa.

Expected IDA outcomes include essential health and nutrition services for up to 400 million people, access to improved water sources for up to 45 million, and 5 GW of renewable energy generating capacity.

Next: Building Resilience

In support of countries’ own development priorities, the scaled-up investments will focus on tackling conflict, fragility, and violence; building resilience to crises including forced displacement, climate change, and pandemics; and reducing gender inequality.

The new financing for Sub-Saharan Africa will include an estimated $8 billion in private sector investments from the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a private sector arm of the World Bank Group.

IFC will deepen its engagement in fragile and conflict-affected states and increase climate-related investments.

In addition, there will be $4 billion in financing from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), its non-concessional public sector arm.

IBRD priorities will include health, education, and infrastructure projects such as expanding water distribution and access to power.

Efforts will also promote governance and institution building, as well as jobs and economic transformation.

This financing will help African countries continue to grow, create opportunities for their citizens, and build resilience to shocks and crises,” Kim said.

While much of the estimated $45 billion in IDA financing will be dedicated to country-specific programs, Kim says significant amounts will be available through special “windows” to finance regional initiatives and transformative projects, support refugees and their host communities, and help countries in the aftermath of crises.

This will be complemented by a newly established Private Sector Window, especially important in Africa, where many sound investments go untapped due to lack of capital and perceived risks.

The Private Sector Window will supplement existing instruments to spur sound investments through de-risking, blended finance, and local currency lending.

The priorities for private sector investment will include infrastructure, financial markets, and agribusiness.

Powering Africa, Both On and Off the Grid

In the western sub-Saharan African country of Côte d’Ivoire last week, former UN Secretary-General

Kofi Annan, secretary-general of the United Nations from 1997 to 2006, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001. Born in Ghana, was the first UN Secretary-General from Sub-Saharan Africa. Annan now heads the Africa Progress Panel, and serves as chair of the Kofi Annan Foundation and chair of The Elders. (Photo courtesy Africa Progress Panel) Posted for media use

Kofi Annan, secretary-general of the United Nations from 1997 to 2006, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001. Born in Ghana, was the first UN Secretary-General from Sub-Saharan Africa. Annan now heads the Africa Progress Panel, and serves as chair of the Kofi Annan Foundation and chair of The Elders. (Photo courtesy Africa Progress Panel) Posted for media use

Kofi Annan issued a new report, “Lights Power Action: Electrifying Africa” that calls for investment in quickly solving Africa’s energy crisis.

Speaking March 13 at African Development Bank headquarters in Abidjan, Annan said, “Achieving universal access to modern energy is critical to Africa’s transformation.”

Nearly two-thirds of Africans – 620 million people – still do not have access to ‘affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern electricity,‘” said Annan, the energy goal that is central to Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development.

The core message of “Lights Power Action” emphasizes that grid-connected mega projects such as large dams and power pools are essential to scale up national and regional energy generation and transmission, but they are slow and expensive.

Through the report, Annan is urging governments to increase investment in off-grid and mini-grid solutions, which are cheaper and quicker to install.

What we are advocating is for African governments to harness every available option, in as cost-effective and technologically efficient a manner as possible, so that everyone is included and no one is left behind” said Annan, who chairs the Africa Progress Panel that wrote the report.

Of the 315 million people who will gain access to electricity in Africa’s rural areas by 2040, it is estimated that only 30 percent will be connected to national grids. Most will be powered by off-grid household or mini-grid systems.

Annan told the audience in Abidjan, “As well as leading the way in promoting wider use of off-grid and mini-grid technology, African governments must continue to work hard to transform national energy grids that are often unreliable and financially fragile.

Many energy utilities are mismanaged and inefficient. A lack of accountability and transparency in their governance also nurtures corruption,” he warned.

Electricity theft at staggering scale is often the result of this malpractice; rolling black-outs are the result of mismanagement,” said Annan. “All continue to feed a deep sense of frustration among citizens.”

It’s not just energy mismanagement, Annan explained. “Poor energy governance reflects the wider governance deficit that threatens to derail development efforts in a number of countries.

Governments need to intensify their efforts to put in place regulatory environments that give the energy sector incentives to deliver on its transformative potential,” he said.

Africa’s leadership, in both public and private sectors, need to “champion the energy for all agenda,” Annan urged.

The private sector, African and non-African,” said the former secretary-general, “should be encouraged to enter energy generation, transmission and distribution markets, deepen linkages throughout the value chain, and build the investment partnerships that can drive growth and create jobs.

He is not saying countries should immediately stop using fossil fuels and switch to renewables. The cost of transitioning to renewables may be prohibitively high in the short term, especially for countries that use their sizable endowments of coal and other fossil fuels to generate energy.

The report advocates that African governments harness every available energy option, so that no one is left behind. Said Annan, “Each country needs to decide on the most cost-effective, technologically efficient energy mix that works best for its own needs.

As widespread adoption of mobile phone technology has already helped Africa leapfrog over conventional technology and improve financial and social inclusion, Annan predicts that “innovation will bring millions of Africans into the energy loop,” setting the stage for improved quality of life.

The ultimate goal should be to interlink Africa’s numerous and fragmented power initiatives to create a single pan-African power grid,” he said in Abidjan.

We know what is needed to reduce and ultimately eliminate Africa’s energy deficit,” declared Annan. “Now we must focus on implementation. The time for excuses is over. It’s time for action.


Billboard- 970x250-min-min

Create Strategic Development projects through Maximpact’s Advisory and discover project services for all types of business and organizations. Contact us at info(@)maximpact.com and tell us what you need.

Our Drying Planet

TigrisRiverBaghdad

An aerial view of the Tigris River as it flows through Baghdad, Iraq, population 8.76 million, the second largest city in the Arab world, July 31, 2016. (U.S. Dept. of Defense Photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro) Public domain

By Sunny Lewis

ROME, Italy, March 16, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – The world faces an acute water crisis within a decade that will affect food supplies, megacities and industry globally, warns Australian science writer Julian Cribb, author of the new book “Surviving the 21st Century.

The water crisis is sneaking up on humanity unawares. People turn on the tap and assume clean, safe water will always flow. But the reality is that supplies are already critical for 4.2 billion people – over half the world’s population,” says Cribb. “During times of drought, megacities like Sao Paulo, La Paz, Los Angeles, Santiago, 32 Indian cities and 400 Chinese cities are now at risk.

World water use is already more than 10 trillion tonnes a year. While the human population has tripled since 1950, our water use has grown six-fold,” says Cribb.

In his book, Cribb cites some disturbing facts:
  • Groundwater is running out in practically every country in the world where it is used to grow food, posing risks to food security in northern India, northern China, Central Asia, the central and western United States, and the Middle East. Most of this groundwater will take thousands of years to replenish.
  • The icepack on high mountain chains is shrinking, emptying the rivers it once fed in practically every continent.
  • Around the world, large lakes are drying up, especially in Central Asia, China, sub-Saharan Africa and the South American Andes.
  • Most of the world’s large rivers are polluted with chemicals, nutrients and sediment.
  • 50,000 dams break up the world’s major rivers, sparking increased disputes over water between neighboring countries.

Pope Francis has warned that humanity could be moving toward a “world war over water.”

Addressing an international seminar on the human right to water hosted in February by the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the Pope said, “It is painful to see when in the legislation of a country or a group of countries, water is not considered a human right. It is even more painful when it is removed from legislation and this human right is denied. I ask myself if in the midst of this third World War happening in pieces, are we on the way to a larger world war over water?

Each of the last three UN secretaries-general – Ban Ki-Moon, Kofi Annan and Boutros Boutros-Ghali – has warned of the dangers of world water scarcity and of future water wars.

To counter this danger, José Graziano da Silva, who heads the Rome-based UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, is focusing on the cradle of civilization, the area between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, and the entire Gulf region, as one of the areas most exposed to the risks posed by climate change, particularly water scarcity.

In an opinion article written in January, Graziano da Silva cited research by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as the authority for his warning, “The Gulf region is poised to experience a significant uptick in the frequency of consecutive dry days…

If we fail to keep average global temperatures from rising more than two degrees Celsius, the region often known as the cradle of human civilization will increasingly face extreme heat waves of the kind that disable the human body’s ability to cool itself,” the FAO leader wrote.

He says avoiding that fate is within our means, but requires that governments muster the will to “increase food output by around 50 percent by 2050,” and we have to do that, he says, “without depleting strained natural resources beyond the tipping point.

Of course, food production requires plenty of water.

In the Gulf region particularly, says Graziano da Silva, no government can accomplish this alone. The region imports about half of all its wheat, barley and maize, and 60 percent of the region’s fresh water flows across national boundaries.

Graziano da Silva draws his hope for the future from the Near East and North Africa’s Water Scarcity Initiative , a partnership for water reform in the Gulf region.

This network of partners, which includes over 30 regional and international organizations, is working to provide member countries with opportunities to learn and share practices in the sustainable use and management of water.

Water scarcity in the Near East and North Africa region is already severe.

Fresh water resources are among the lowest in the world. They have fallen by two-thirds during last 40 years and are expected to drop at least more 50 percent by 2050.

Ninety percent of the region’s land lies within arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas, while 45 percent of the total agricultural area is exposed to salinity, soil nutrient depletion and wind water erosion, according to the FAO.

At the same time, agriculture in the region uses roughly 85 percent of the available freshwater.

The Initiative is attempting to bring scientific tools to bear on these grim facts. Water accounting, food-supply cost curve, gap-analysis and regular monitoring of agricultural water productivity are some of the advanced tools that the Initiative will use to quantify the benefits and costs of alternative policy options to address food insecurity while sustaining water resources.

Data collection, management and analysis are the backbone of the Initiative that will support the strategic planning for water resources and provide evidence for policy formulation.

Making use of the expertise developed by FAO and its partners, the Initiative will advise governments and the private sector on the adoption of modern technologies and institutional solutions to increase the efficiency and productivity of water use in agriculture for the benefit of millions of farmers and rural communities in the region.

Options to save water all along the food value chain will be shared with the private sector, while governments will be encouraged to promote incentive frameworks that reposition farmers at the center of the sustainable management of land and water resources.

The Initiative will support the ongoing major policy processes in the region, including the Arab Water Security Strategy 2010-2030 and the Regional Initiative for the Assessment of Climate Change Impacts on Water Resources and Socio-Economic Vulnerability in the Arab Region.

FAO’s work in the region ranges from emergency efforts in response to the conflicts in Syria and Yemen to running Farmer Field Schools in Egypt and helping the United Arab Emirates develop their first national agricultural policy.

The UAE is planning to roll out water meters on farms, while at the same time introducing smart subsidies targeting those who consume less water than average.

Benefits range from better diagnostic data on actual water use and incentives to actual conservation practices to allocating the savings to farmers who can invest in their businesses for even more efficiency.

That climate change poses such threats to an area known as the cradle of civilization underscores the need for urgent action to put agriculture at the center of the sustainability agenda,” says Graziano da Silva.

World Water Day, on March 22 every year, is about taking action to tackle the water crisis. Today, there are over 663 million people living without a safe water supply close to home, spending countless hours queuing or trekking to distant sources, and coping with the health impacts of using contaminated water.

This year’s theme: Why waste water? is in support of Sustainable Development Goal 6 – to ensure the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030.

And now it’s not just a day, or just a week, like the prestigious annual World Water Week in Stockholm in September, but the United Nations has designated another decade to mobilize for water conservation and sustainable use.

The UN Water for Life Decade 2005-2015  a knowledge hub, a best practices program, encouraged communications regarding water and integrated into its work the accomplishments of the UN-Water technical advisory unit.

In December 2016, the UN General Assembly unanimously adopted the resolution “International Decade (2018–2028) for Action – Water for Sustainable Development” to help put a greater focus on water during 10 years.

Emphasizing that water is critical for sustainable development and the eradication of poverty and hunger, UN Member States expressed deep concern over the lack of access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene as well as concern over water-related disasters, scarcity and pollution worsened by urbanization, population growth, desertification, drought and climate change.

The new Decade will focus on the sustainable development and integrated management of water resources for the achievement of social, economic and environmental objectives.

To set the agenda in motion, UN-Water, in its 26th meeting in Geneva in February, decided on the establishment of a Task Force to facilitate its support to the planning and organization of the International Decade for Action – Water for Sustainable Development.

The Decade will commence on World Water Day March 22, 2018, and end on World Water Day, March 22, 2028. It could be the last decade that humanity can use to avert the predicted water crisis.


Featured Image: Mullah Neoka and his sons are wheat farmers in Afghanistan’s Herat province, once the bread basket of central Asia before land mines made farming impossible. HALO Trust, a UK-supported project to clear land mines has restored the land for agriculture. 2011. (Photo by Catherine Belfield-Haines / UK Department for International Development) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Billboard- 970x250-min-min

 Maximpact’s consultant network has a wide range of water experts that can help your organization with water related environmental protection and water projects. Contact us at info(@)maximpact.com and tell us what you need.

BioNurse: Generating Spaces for Life

biomimicryyaretarocks

Yareta plants live in the high altitude of the Andes Mountains. Some are estimated at 3,000 years old. (Photo by Pedro Szekely) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

by Sunny Lewis

MISSOULA, Montana, December 1, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – A team from the Ceres Regional Center for Fruit and Vegetable Innovation in Chile has won the first-ever $100,000 Ray C. Anderson Foundation “Ray of Hope” Prize in the Biomimicry Global Design Challenge .

The BioNurse team from Quillota, Chile created the BioPatch, a biomimicry solution that enhances soil’s capacity to retain water, nutrients, and microorganisms so that degraded land is restored for the next generation of crops.

At least 25 percent of the world’s soil is degraded, and the winning concept provides a new way to protect seedlings and restore soils to health, with inspiration from natural plant processes.

The BioNurse team was inspired by the way that hardy “nurse” plants like the yareta, ancient flowering plants in the high altitudes of Chile, Peru, and Bolivia, establish themselves in degraded soils and pave the way for new plant species to grow.

Many yaretas are estimated to be over 3,000 years old.

By mimicking biological principles, the BioNurse team’s design innovation provides a way to grow and protect new plants and ensure that the soil can be regenerated to feed the world’s burgeoning population.

The judges were impressed with the way that the BioNurse team utilized biomimicry on multiple levels,” said John Lanier, executive director of the Ray C. Anderson Foundation. “Moreover, we believe in their potential to commercialize and scale the concept to achieve a significant impact in areas of the world where farming is limited due to poor soil.”

Ray C. Anderson (1934-2011), a Georgia native, was recognized as a leader in green business when he challenged his carpet company, Atlanta-based Interface, Inc., to reimagine itself as a sustainable company with a zero environmental footprint. His foundation funds projects that advance knowledge and innovation around environmental stewardship and sustainability.

Team BioNurse’s winning project aims to establish a first step that changes the course of the current “geomimetic agriculture” to a “biomimetic agriculture.”

Their design proposes a change in the fundamentals of agricultural food production, heading towards increasing soil health and vitality.

The team says their biomimetic method “emulates nurse plants in biologic communities.”

The physical, chemical and biological fertility concentration of their soil “comes from a continuous formation of a vivifying mass which transforms, recycles, composes and decomposes the organic matter and mineral elements, fluffing the ground to make it a real sponge, light and soft, rich in spaces for developing life.

The biomimetic method stands in contrast to the way that humans have opened and plowed the land throughout history, causing cracks and breaks in the soil.

This geomimetic system has taken a lot of fertility, energy and minerals from the soil, which in turn has released huge amounts of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere.

The team’s biomimicry starts with a device they have called BioNurse, made of a biodegradable container and the appropriate biologic contents for each site.

The container is fabricated from corn stalks, utilizing a resource that otherwise would be burned as waste. It biodegrades after one season.

The team has demonstrated that the plants growing within the container will be capable of reproducing the same conditions in a natural way and, after one year, the soil will be productive again.

bionurseteam

BioNurse Team members: front row: Camila Hernández, Camila Gratacos, back row from left: Nicolas Orellana, Victor Vicencio, Jean François Casal, Carlo Sabaini, Eduardo Gratacos (Photo courtesy Biomimicry Global Design Challenge) posted for media use.

The seven BioNurse Team members are: Camila Hernández, Camila Gratacos, Nicolas Orellana, Victor Vicencio, Jean François Casal, Carlo Sabaini, Eduardo Gratacos

The team had three objectives:

  • Restore degraded soils by carrying: biologically available energy, a high and diverse microbiological load, plants with rhizospheres rich in mycorrhizae, and detritus generators.
  • Create growing levels of food plants’ community structure with increased complexity and local biodiversity,
  • Improve the capacity of moisture retention and accumulation of energy and minerals available to be cycled.

Two principles — seeking harmony with nature and leveraging the power of business — are at the core of the Biomimicry Global Design Challenge and the work of the Biomimicry Institute based in Missoula.

The Institute aims to “naturalize biomimicry in the culture by promoting the transfer of ideas, designs, and strategies from biology to sustainable human systems design.

A new round of the Biomimicry Global Design Challenge has just launched, which offers another opportunity for teams to join and compete for the annual $100,000 “Ray of Hope” Prize.

The philanthropists at the heart of the Biomimicry Design Challenge take their inspiration from environmentalist, entrepreneur, journalist, and author Paul Hawken, who said, “Biomimicry directs us to where we need to go in every aspect in human endeavor.


Billboard- 970x250-min-min

 Featured image: Green Patch III – Yareta plants. (Photo by Magnus von Koeller) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

Cutting Food Loss and Waste Gets Easier

foodwaste

Food waste exhibit at the National Museum of American History (americanhistory.si.edu), Washington, DC, April 2014 (Photo by Philip Cohen) Creative commons license via Flickr.

By Sunny Lewis

COPENHAGEN, Denmark, November 17, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – A new international framework that empowers businesses, governments and NGOs to measure and manage food loss and waste is in its first year of operation. About a third of all food produced each year is lost or wasted worldwide as it moves from field to table, enough food to feed two billion people for a year, even as more than 800 million people are undernourished.

Introduced at the Global Green Growth Forum 2016 Summit (3GF) in Copenhagen in June, the new Food Loss and Waste Standard (FLW) is the first set of global definitions and reporting requirements for companies, countries and others to measure, report on and manage food loss and waste.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that over 40 percent of root crops, fruits and vegetables are lost or wasted, along with 35 percent of fish, 30 percent of cereals and 20 percent of oilseeds, meat, and dairy products. Total food waste represents an economic value of some $1 trillion annually.

Food loss and waste generates about eight percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. If it were a country, food loss and waste would be the third-largest greenhouse gas emitter behind China and the United States.

The FLW standard comes as a growing number of governments, companies and civil society groups are making commitments to reduce food loss and waste.

This standard is a real breakthrough,” said Andrew Steer, president and CEO, World Resources Institute based in Washington, DC. “For the first time, armed with the standard, countries and companies will be able to quantify how much food is lost and wasted, where it occurs, and report on it in a highly credible and consistent manner.

There’s simply no reason that so much food should be lost and wasted,” said Steer. “Now, we have a powerful new tool that will help governments and businesses save money, protect resources and ensure more people get the food they need.

The standard is voluntary and designed for users of all types and sizes, across all economic sectors, and in any country.

Peter Bakker, president and CEO, World Business Council for Sustainable Development, said the world has to stop destroying food. “Wasting a third of the food we produce is a clear symptom of a global food system in trouble,” he said.

The FLW Standard is pivotal to setting a reliable baseline for streamlined and efficient action on the ground for countries, cities, and small and big businesses along the food value chain,” said Bakker. “Together with tangible business solutions, the FLW Standard can help to significantly reduce food loss and waste around the globe.

The FLW Standard requires an entity to report on four components:

  • Timeframe: the period of time for which the inventory results are being reported
  • Material type: the materials that are included in the inventory – food only, inedible parts only, or both
  • Destination: where FLW goes when removed from the food supply chain
  • Boundary: the food category, lifecycle stage, geography, and organization

 Creating inventories that conform to the FLW Standard can form the foundation for effective strategies that can reduce food loss and waste and monitor progress over time.

The new standard can help governments and companies meet international commitments, including the Paris Agreement on climate change and UN Sustainable Development Goals. SDG Target 12.3 calls for a 50 percent global reduction in food waste by 2030, along with reductions in food loss.

Kristian Jensen, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Denmark, said, “Waste makes everybody poorer. I am pleased that a new strong alliance between public and private actors will provide an efficient answer to the global challenge of food loss and waste.

The FLW Standard is expected to help reduce food loss and waste in the private sector. In 2015, The Consumer Goods Forum, which represents more than 400 of the world’s largest retailers and manufacturers from 70 countries, adopted a resolution for its members to reduce food waste from their operations by 50 percent by 2025, with baselines and progress to be measured using the FLW Standard. Some leading companies, like Nestlé and Tesco, are already measuring and publicly reporting on their food loss and waste.

Dave Lewis, CEO of Tesco, a British multinational grocery and general merchandise retailer, likes the new standard. “We are pleased to have been the first UK retailer to publish third party-assured food waste data for our own operations and will continue to do so every year. This transparency and hard evidence is a cornerstone of our food waste work.”

Not only has this allowed us to identify where there are food waste hotspots in our own operations, it has also helped us to take action in those areas of food loss and waste,” said Lewis.

Last December, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) , the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and the CGIAR program on Policies, Institutions, and Markets launched a new initiative to enhance global cooperation on measuring and reducing food loss and waste. The program was requested by the G20 agriculture ministers.

The Technical Platform on the Measurement and Reduction of Food Loss and Waste is an information-sharing and coordination network involving international organizations, development banks, NGOs, and the private sector.

 Platform partners work together to enhance the measurement of food loss and waste, exchange knowledge and information, and share best practices to tackle the global challenges of food loss and waste.

The G20 Platform will enhance our capacity to accurately measure food loss and waste, both in the G20 countries and in low-income countries,” said FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva. “It will bring new expertise and knowledge for improving metrics. It will also respond to countries’ need for knowledge and good practices.

In Japan, an estimated 6.42 million tons of food loss and waste is generated every year, about twice the 3.08 million tons of food provided by the United Nations World Food Programme as humanitarian aid in 2014.

To address this, Tatsuya Sekito, the CEO of the Japanese consulting company Glaucks Co., opened Kuradashi.jp, an online shopping website, in February 2015.

Kuradashi.jp sells products supplied by cooperating manufacturers that endorse its objectives. They provide their products at special prices, so most of the products are priced at half the regular price or lower. After free membership registration, anybody can visit the website and make a purchase.

The greater the sales on Kuradashi.jp, the greater will be the reduction in food waste, because these are products that would otherwise be discarded.

In 2020, the Olympics will be held in Tokyo. After the success of the London Olympics on the theme of sustainability, Tokyo will be seeking global attention for its efforts in managing the Tokyo Olympics to create systems for a more sustainable society.

Sekito says, “We can’t miss this opportunity. We want to use the power of business to reduce food waste and make progress toward improvements and solutions for this issue.


Billboard- 970x250-min-min

Featured image: Young Georgia girl enjoys a Georgia peach (Photo by Bruce Tuten) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

Hope for the Hungry

Hope_for_the_Hungry

By Sunny Lewis

ROME, Italy, July 26, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – Hundreds of millions of people throughout the world go to bed hungry while at the same time, a third of the world’s food is wasted, say the number-crunchers at the United Nations food agencies.

But there is fresh hope for the hungry. Leaders of two UN agencies fighting hunger worldwide are applauding new legislation in the United States that aims to strengthen global food assistance programs in the years ahead.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) praised U.S. President Barack Obama for his July 20th signing of the Global Food Security Act (GFSA). The United States is the largest donor to both UN agencies.

The measure was passed by the U.S. Congress on July 6 by members of both the Democratic and Republican parties, during a time of otherwise great division in the U.S. Congress and politics.

The United States is helping to put and even stronger emphasis on how food security and economic development are intertwined, while stressing the central role of small-scale family farmers in the fight against hunger and poverty,” said FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva.

This law will have a dramatic impact on the lives of people throughout world, showing once again why the United States is a leader in promoting food security and helping those who struggle to feed their families so they can start to build their own future,” says WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin.

The new law supports initiatives to develop agriculture, assist small-scale food producers and improve nutrition, especially for women and children worldwide. It seeks improve the provision of water, sanitation and hygiene to poor communities and build their resilience to withstand shocks, such as conflict, droughts and floods.

President Obama signed into law the Feed the Future program, the U.S. government’s global hunger initiative, ensuring it will continue helping countries provide their people with enough food – even after the Obama presidency ends in January.

The new law authorizes for the first time USAID‘s International Disaster Assistance and Emergency Food Security Program. This means future White House administrations and future Congresses could more easily make cash assistance available to people experiencing hunger unexpectedly, due to natural disasters or war.

And it has never been more needed. One-third of all the food produced worldwide is lost or wasted as it moves from farm, ranch or orchard to table, at a global cost as high as US$940 billion a year, calculates the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.

At the same time, more than 800 million people around the world are undernourished, the FAO reminded everyone in June.

Food loss and food waste generates about eight percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, the UN agency says, adding that if it were a country, food loss and waste would be the third-largest greenhouse gas emitter – behind China and the United States.

In an attempt to lose less food and feed more people, a partnership of international organizations has launched a new global framework to giv businesses, governments, and other organizations ways to measure, report on and manage food loss and waste.

The Food Loss and Waste Protocol is the partnership, and they have developed the global Food Loss and Waste Accounting and Reporting Standard for quantifying and reporting on food removed from the food supply chain due to waste or loss.

The new Standard was launched at the Global Green Growth Forum (3GF) 2016 Summit June 6 in Copenhagen.

3GF enables public-private partnerships to support the large-scale adoption of green technologies, practices and policies that they hope will accelerate solutions to intractable problems that markets and governments have been unable to solve on their own.

This set of global definitions and reporting requirements comes as a growing number of governments, companies and other organizions are making commitments to reduce food loss and waste.

Waste makes everybody poorer,” Denmark’s Foreign Affairs Minister Kristian Jensen said. “I am pleased that a new strong alliance between public and private actors will provide an efficient answer to the global challenge of food loss and waste. 3GF has promoted yet another green and innovative solution to global challenges.

The new Food Loss and Waste Standard will reduce economic losses for the consumer and food industry, alleviate pressure on natural resources and contribute to realizing the ambitious goals set out in the Sustainable Development Goals,” said Jensen. “We need to push for more solutions like this for the benefit of people, profit and the planet.

The Food Loss and Waste Protocol is the multi-stakeholder partnership convened by the nonprofit World Resources Institute and begun at the Global Green Growth Forum in 2013.

This standard is a real breakthrough,” declared Andrew Steer, president and CEO, World Resources Institute. “There’s simply no reason that so much food should be lost and wasted. Now, we have a powerful new tool that will help governments and businesses save money, protect resources and ensure more people get the food they need.

FLW Protocol partners include some of the largest and most influential of organizations: The Consumer Goods Forum, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the European Union-funded FUSIONS project, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), The Waste and Resources Action Programme and World Resources Institute.

UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner acknowledged, “The scale of the problem of food loss and waste can be difficult to comprehend. Having this new standard by which to measure food loss and waste will not only help us understand just how much food is not making it to our mouths, but will help set a baseline for action.

UNEP is urging all countries and companies to use the new Food Loss and Waste Accounting and Reporting Standard to start measuring and reporting food loss and waste, in parallel to taking action to deliver on Sustainable Development Goal SDG Target 12.3: Halve food waste by 2030.

Wasting a third of the food we produce is a clear symptom of a global food system in trouble,” said President and CEO of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development Peter Bakker. “The FLW Standard is pivotal to setting a reliable baseline for streamlined and efficient action on the ground for countries, cities, and small and big businesses along the food value chain.

Together with tangible business solutions,” said Bakker, “the FLW Standard can help to significantly reduce food loss and waste around the globe.”

The FLW Standard will also help reduce food loss and waste within the private sector.

In 2015, The Consumer Goods Forum, which represents more than 400 of the world’s largest retailers and manufacturers from 70 countries, adopted a resolution for its members to reduce food waste from their operations by 50 percent by 2025, with baselines and progress to be measured using the FLW Standard.

Some leading companies, like Nestle and Tesco, are already measuring and publicly reporting on their food loss and waste.

An executive summary of the Food Loss and Waste Protocol can be found at Food Loss and Waste Accounting and Reporting Standard


Main Image: In the Philippines, girls eat food offered by Feed My Starving Children, a Christian nonprofit organization. (Photo by Feed My Starving Children) Creative commons license via Flickr

Rio Summer Olympics ‘Embrace’ Sustainability

RioMaracana

The Estádio do Maracanã is a 78,838 seat open-air stadium in the city of Rio owned by the Rio de Janeiro state government. South America’s largest stadium, it will be the venue for the Rio Olympics opening ceremonies on August 5 and closing ceremonies on August 21. (Photo by Luciano Silva) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

RIO de JANEIRO, Brazil, July 14, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – A new set of sustainability measures to support the greening of the Rio Summer Olympic Games were agreed by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the 2016 Olympics and Paralympics Organizing Committee as far back as 2013.

Expressing its commitment to achieving sustainability, the “Embrace” Rio 2016 plan is based on three pillars: Planet, People and Prosperity, and has been established with the input of the federal, state and municipal governments.

The slogan “Embrace” Rio 2016 is being used in all Games communications related to the Sustainability Plan. The idea behind the name is to engage people, inviting them to be part of the transformation promoted by the event, which opens on Friday, August 5 and ends on Sunday, August 21.

A technical cooperation agreement with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) was signed at the launch of the sustainability program in August 2013. It expected to provide an evaluation plan and mediation around the subject of sustainability between Rio 2016 and the people of Brazil.

Denise Hamú, UNEP’s representative in Brazil, said, “Our goal is to integrate sustainability in all organizational processes, reducing the impact of the Games and setting an example of good practice for society as a whole. Together, sports and environment are powerful tools for sustainable development. For this reason, the UNEP has worked in partnership with the Olympic Movement over the last two decades.

Sustainability round tables originated during dialogue between the Organizing Committee and civil society groups in 2013. They began in 2014 and examined six topics in depth: urban mobility, climate change, sustainability education, protection of children and teenagers, diversity and inclusion, and transparency.

The Games will inevitably generate environmental impacts,” says the Organizing Committee. “We are talking about high consumption of water, energy, raw materials, food and so on. Rio 2016 undertakes to use all resources conscientiously and rationally, prioritizing certified, reusable and recyclable materials.”

 Discussions led to awareness, and the Organizing Committee has acted responsibly in many ways during planning and preparation for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games.

  • 100 percent certified wood: Rio 2016 undertook to buy all the timber items required for the Games from sources with chain of custody certification. That means that the timber is logged sustainably and traceability is guaranteed from the time the timber leaves the forest through to the end user.
  • Sustainable headquarters: Rio 2016 has its headquarters in a temporary building. After the Olympics are over, it will be taken down, and 80 percent of the material will be reused in future structures. While in use, the building consumes 70 percent less energy than ordinary buildings. Timers on bathroom wash basins, intelligent flushes and a rainwater collection system enables the Organizing Committee to cut water consumption.
  • Material life-cycle analysis: The Organizing Committee has analyzed the life-cycles of 106 materials being used by the Games visual identity team to ensure conscientious and sustainable choices and minimize their environmental impact.

With the intention of delivering low-impact Games, the Organizing Committee has completed a study of the carbon footprint of the Rio Games and defined an emissions management strategy, based on impact measurement, cutting emissions, mitigation where possible and offsetting what cannot be mitigated.

To avert some of the consequences of energy use at the Games, Rio 2016 and Worldwide TOP Partner Dow announced the most comprehensive carbon dioxide (CO2) offset program in Olympic Games history. As the Official Carbon Partner of Rio 2016, Dow will mitigate 500,000 tons of CO2 equivalents through third party-verified emissions reductions somewhere else.

  • Technology-based carbon mitigation plan: This plan aims to mitigate 100 percent of the emissions generated by the Rio 2016 Games, which will amount to 500,000 tonnes of co2eq direct emissions from operation of the Games and 1.5 million tonnes of co2eq from spectators. Mitigation projects involve the agriculture, manufacturing and civil engineering sectors, and they will reap short, medium and long-term benefits.
RioVLT

One of Rio’s new state-of-the-art trams makes its way through the new-look waterfront district (Photo by Bruno Bartholini / Porto Maravilha) Posted for media use

Known as the VLT, Rio’s new light rail system started running in June. The high-tech trams have transformed public transport in the city center and given a futuristic look to the business district. The trams connect Santos Dumont domestic airport to the long-distance bus station, running through the waterfront district and stopping along the way at new museums and the busy cruise ship terminal. More than 200,000 people have already used the service.

Fleets of buses and trucks will be fueled by diesel containing 20 percent recycled cooking oil. Biodiesel emits less carbon and sulphur than petroleum diesel. It is estimated that 20,000 oil collectors will be involved, boosting the development of this production chain.

  • Logistics efficiency program: Logistics are a major factor in boosting the Games’ CO2 emissions. Rio 2016 is designing an intelligent route model to cut transportation time, fuel consumption and carbon emissions for the more than 30 million items to be brought in for the Games.

Allowing for public involvement has been an key part of the Organizing Committee’s work. Initial dialogue with civil society took place in 2013 and brought together 34 representatives of 24 organizations to assess the content of the Sustainability Management Plan. These meetings were held annually until this year. Organizers hope they will encourage a strong and effective post-Games transformation network.

  • Rio Alimentação Sustentável: Since 2013, Rio 2016 has been working in partnership with this voluntary organization focusing on healthy, sustainable foods. It is proposed that the Games act as a driving force to improve this sector in Brazil.

Rio 2016 has entered into partnerships with the Marine Stewardship Council and Aquaculture Stewardship Council so that suppliers can obtain sustainability certification for fish and seafood to be eaten during the Games.

For Rio 2016, one of the key points is waste management, since large volumes of waste will be generated daily during the Games. The great challenge is to minimize waste and raise awareness among spectators, athletes, volunteers about the best way to dispose of and recycle waste.

  • Rio 2016 headquarters waste management: The Organizing Committee has been operating without buying plastic cups, reducing the number of printers available and not providing individual waste bins.
  • Guide to sustainability for packaging: One of the critical points in the generation of waste is packaging. With this in mind, in April 2013, Rio 2016 published a guide to sustainable packaging, in which the committee laid down sustainability options and mandatory requirements for this category of items, including labeling, eco-design, accessibility of information and packaging materials.
  • Games waste management strategies: The strategy began during the preparatory phase and will end when the venues are dismantled. Recycling cooperatives will be involved, and the strategy is based on this sequence: waste generation avoidance → minimizing volume → managing inevitable waste → promoting behavioral change. The strategy also includes treatment of organic waste through composting, in order to reduce the amount that is sent to landfills.
  • Olympic Games Impact (OGI) study: In 2014, the Organizing Committee published its first OGI study, carried out by the Rio de Janeiro Federal University School of Engineering and containing an analysis of 22 environmental, 76 socio-cultural and 25 economic indicators. The first edition relates to the period 2007-2013. A further three reports are to be published, covering impacts up to 2019.

After successfully hosting 44 test events, the Rio 2016 team and the venues are ready for action, with all the facilities receiving their final Olympic touches before the athletes start to arrive. The velodrome and equestrian venues, which were being monitored closely by the organizers, are in the final stage of preparation, and will be ready for the Games.

Golf as an Olympic sport was added just this year, and Rio created a golf course in the previously degraded area of Marapendi, west of Rio to host the new sport. Before the start of work, about 80 percent of the golf course land was degraded by sand extraction, and by the manufacturing and storage of pre-cast concrete.

Over at the Olympic Golf Course, Rio 2016 Sustainability Coordinator Carina Flores says the fresh vegetation has led to “a positive spiral for the development of wildlife.”

 Records indicate the presence of 263 animal species in the region today, as compared with 118 mapped before construction.

 An inspection of the golf course was conducted in December 2015, after a public civil action was filed by state prosecutors who questioned the environmental impact of the golf course construction work. Prosecutors, legal advisors and technicians environmentalists were among the inspectors.

 The forensic report from Brazil’s Court of Justice concluded, “The environmental gain in the region with the construction of the golf course is visible. In addition to the flora, which increased extensively, we can observe the different animal species that have returned to the area.

Rio 2016 is ready to welcome the world,” said International Olympic Committee Coordination Commission Chair Nawal el Moutawakel.

The Olympians of 2016 can look forward to living in an outstanding Olympic Village and competing in absolutely stunning venues,” she said. “From views of the Corcovado and Sugar Loaf Mountain to the new state-of-the-art facilities in Barra or Deodoro and the iconic Maracanã Stadium and Copacabana Beach, I cannot imagine more spectacular backdrops for the world’s top sportsmen and women to showcase their talents to a watching world.


EU Patent Office Under Siege Over Seeds

GardenBelgium

An organic garden in Walhain, Walloon Brabant, Belgium (Photo by Simon Blackley) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis,

MUNICH, Germany, July 12, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – More than 800,000 signatures against patents on plants and animals were handed to officials of the European Patent Office on June 29, as the EPO’s Administrative Council held a meeting in Munich.

By the signatures they have collected, civil society organizations are demanding that the EPO change its rules.

European patent laws do prohibit patents on plant and animal varieties, and on the conventional breeding of plants and animals.

But the civil society organizations behind the petition warn that the European Patent Office is undermining these prohibitions by granting more patents on food plants, including vegetables, their seeds and the harvested food crops.

In total, some 1,400 patent applications on conventional breeding have been filed at the EPO, and around 180 patents have been granted.

The petition comes in the context of a resolution passed by the European Parliament in December calling for a ban on patents for conventionally bred products; a groundswell against a patent requested by Syngenta for a conventionally bred tomato; and the recent revocation of a patent that had been issued by the European Patent Office to Monsanto in 2011 for a conventionally bred melon that resists viruses – “The Melon Case“.

The signatures were handed over to the president of the Administrative Council of the European Patent Office Jesper Kongstad, who also serves as director general of the Danish Patent and Trademark Office (dkpto), and to the chair of the Committee on Patent Law of the EPO, Sean Dennehey.

The signatures were collected in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Spain, Portugal and France.

The petition was organized by civil society organizations, including Campact from Germany, Arche Noah from Austria, Berne Declaration in Switzerland, Bionext in The Netherlands, the EU-wide group WeMove and dozens of organizations that are members of the international coalition No Patents on Seeds!.

The organizations are jointly calling for a change in the European Patent Office rules.

It is time for a change,” said Lara Dovifat for Campact, an organization that collected many signatures for the petition.

The patent system has become unbalanced. The interests of society at large, which does not want to become dependent on huge companies such as Bayer, Monsanto and Syngenta, have to be given priority. Now is the time to stop patents on our food, seeds, plants and animals,” said Dovifat.

OrganicTomatoesFrance

Conventionally bred organic tomatoes for sale in Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur, France (Photo by Philip Haslett) Creative Commons license via Flickr

In 2015, the European Patent Office granted a patent to the Swiss company Syngenta for tomatoes with a high content of flavonols, compounds the company claims are beneficial to health. The patent covers the plants, the seeds and the fruits.

Opponents say this tomato is a product of crossing tomatoes originally from Peru and Chile with varieties currently grown in the industrialized countries, but is not an original invention.

European patent law is meant to prohibit patents on plant varieties and on conventional breeding. For this reason, the opponents want the patent to be revoked completely.

The members of the EPO’s Administrative Council are delegates from the 38 contracting states of the European Patent Convention. They have control of the Implementation Regulation, which defines the rules on how to apply current European patent law.

The civil society organizations are demanding that these rules are changed in order to stop further patents on plants and animals derived from conventional breeding.

They claim to be seeing support from many member states of the EPO, as well as from the European Commission and the EU Parliament.

An increasing number of member states such as Austria, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal, Spain and The Netherlands are becoming increasingly aware of the problems that go along with seed monopolies and are unhappy with current EPO practice,” said Maaike Raaijmakers, speaking on behalf of Bionext, which represents the Dutch organic food sector. “Some of these countries have already changed their national patent laws or are invalidating these patents.

There is strong support from the EU Parliament and also some movement within the EU Commission. However, legal certainty will only be achieved if the rules and regulations at the EPO are corrected in a way that strengthens the current prohibitions to stop patents on plants and animals derived from conventional breeding,” said Raaijmakers.

In mid-May, members of the European Patent Organisation refused to accept a meeting requested by the opponents.

In May a symposium on patents and plant breeders’ rights was hosted by the Dutch Minister for Agriculture Martijn van Dam.

The International Foundation for Organic Agriculture (IFOAM) EU welcomed the Dutch Presidency initiative and urged the Commission to take concrete, legal action to put an end to patents on seeds.

Thomas Fertl, IFOAM EU Board Member and Farmers’ Representative, said, “The European Commission should urgently clarify that seeds and genetic traits that can be found in nature and obtained through conventional breeding cannot be patented.

The patent legislation has increasingly been used to grant patents on natural traits, which is a complete misuse of the patent system. This kind of patents fosters further market concentration in the seed sector and hamper competition and innovation,” Fertl said.

Today, only five companies control 75 percent of the seeds sold throughout the world and own most of the patents. This is corporate control over farming and the food chain at its most dangerous,” warned Fertl.

Raaijmakers said, “We are cooperating with conventional farming associations, NGOs and many concerned citizens to put an end to patent claims on our food. Farmers constantly need new varieties, as growing conditions on the fields and market demands change rapidly. Climate change makes it even more urgent for farmers to have access to a wide range of adapted varieties. Patents on seeds hinder the development of new varieties, reduce choice and increase prices for farmers and consumers. This threatens our food security in the long term.

Eric Gall, IFOAM EU Policy Manager, concluded, “Patents on seeds hinder innovation in breeding and block the circulation of genetic resources. Access to genetic biodiversity is essential for creating new varieties and should not be blocked by patents. Organic and smallholder farmers are particularly at risk of losing the varieties they need to farm.”

The Commission must issue a legal interpretation that clearly prevents these types of patents,” said Gall, “and should revise the biotech inventions Directive 98/44 in order to protect farmers from intellectual property rights claims regarding the plants and animals they save and breed.

The EPO has made no comment on the petition


Featured image:  123 RF stock footage

2/3 Food Cans Test Positive for Toxic BPA

CannedCornUSDA

Karen Grubb empties cans of corn at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. (Photo courtesy USDA) Public Domain

 

By Sunny Lewis

WASHINGTON, DC, March 31, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – ConAgra Foods beat them all to it. The American packaged foods giant announced last July that all of its facilities in the United States and Canada had completed the transition to cans with linings that don’t contain Bisphenol A, a hormone-disrupting chemical linked to increased risk of breast and prostate cancers, infertility and type-2 diabetes.

Gail Tavill, ConAgra’s vice president, packaging and sustainable productivity, said then, “We recognize consumer interest in removing BPA from our cans and are pleased to be able to respond to that desire and offer food that our consumers can feel confident in.”

On Wednesday, a new report from six health and environmental groups found that 67 percent of nearly 200 food cans from dozens of brands and retailers tested positive for BPA, and now other companies are scrambling to remove the offending chemical from the linings of their cans.

Companies such as Campbell’s Soups. The study found 100 percent of the Campbell’s cans tested (15 out of 15) contained BPA-based epoxy.

On Monday, Campbell’s outlined the company’s plans to remove Bisphenol A from the linings of its cans by the middle of 2017 and transition to acrylic or polyester linings in all its soup cans.

Campbell’s first announced its intention to move away from BPA can linings in February 2012. Mark Alexander, president of Americas Simple Meals & Beverages, a Campbell’s company, said Monday that the technical and financial challenges have proven daunting and the company is still dealing with the “enormity of the task.”

“We ship nearly two billion cans each year, comprising more than 600 different recipes. Making a change of this magnitude requires input from hundreds of employees across the company,” Alexander said.

A particular challenge is cans containing tomatoes, which are naturally acidic and can react with some linings over time, said Alexander.

He emphasized that Campbell’s does not plan to pass the costs of making these changes on to consumers.

“Our priority throughout this transition has been, and will continue to be, food safety,” said Mike Mulshine, Campbell’s senior program manager, packaging. “We have tested and conducted trials with hundreds of alternatives to BPA lining and believe the acrylic and polyester options will ensure our food remains safe, affordable and tastes great.”

The report, “Buyer Beware: Toxic BPA & Regrettable Substitutes in the Linings of Canned Food,” was researched and written by: the Breast Cancer Fund; Campaign for Healthier Solutions; Clean Production Action; Ecology Center; Environmental Defence (Canada); and Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families’ Mind the Store campaign.

“Our findings were alarming,” the authors say. “We expected that the explosion in consumer demand for BPA-free packaging would have resulted in swifter action by canned food brands and retailers. However, 67 percent of the 192 cans tested 129 contained BPA-based epoxy in the body and/or the lid.”

Hundreds of scientific studies have linked low levels of BPA, measured in parts per billion and even parts per trillion, to an increased risk of breast and prostate cancer, infertility, type-2 diabetes, obesity, asthma, and behavioral changes including attention deficit disorder.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration claims that BPA is safe for adults to consume at current levels, but in 2012 the agency banned the sale of baby bottles and children’s cups containing BPA.

“Food manufacturers refused to tell us what chemicals were in their cans, so we reverse engineered and tested them ourselves,” said Jeff Gearhart, the Ecology Center’s HealthyStuff.org research director. “Since they can’t hide these chemicals from consumers anymore, perhaps they will be more motivated to use safer materials.”

The “Buyer Beware” report is intended as a wake-up call for national brands and retailers who are eliminating BPA in favor of other harmful chemicals that the authors call “regrettable substitutions.”

“Consumers want BPA-free food cans that are truly safer, not food cans lined with materials comprised of known or possible carcinogens, such as vinyl chloride used to make PVC, or styrene, present in some acrylic coatings,” the report states.

Watchdog groups, including the authors of this report, are now calling on the canned food industry to make full ingredient disclosure, and conduct publicly transparent hazard assessments of BPA-replacement chemicals using the GreenScreen® for Safer Chemicals, to ensure that they are safe for human health and the planet.

The GreenScreen® method uses research and data collection coupled with expert judgment to find safe substitutes for hazardous chemicals.

“BPA-free doesn’t mean a can lining is safe, as the substitute could itself be harmful. That is why we are asking companies to take the GreenScreen Challenge and work with us to demonstrate the chemical safety of their can liners,” said Clean Production Action’s Beverley Thorpe, who helps companies understand the value of the GreenScreen® as a tool for replacing toxic chemicals with safe alternatives.

To conduct a meaningful assessment, suppliers must be willing to fully disclose the chemical ingredients – including polymers, additives or resins – of their can-lining materials to an independent GreenScreen® Profiler.

Profilers who conduct GreenScreen® assessments can offer Non-Disclosure Agreements to manufacturers and suppliers to keep chemical identities confidential.

The GreenScreen® challenge asks companies to publicly report their GreenScreen® hazard results with redacted chemical names to shield their proprietary recipes.

The hazard scores provide the information most needed by consumers, retailers and the brands themselves if they wish to reduce business risk.

BPA is in the linings of canned foods sold around the world.

Eighteen out of the 21 food cans purchased from three of the largest retailers in Canada – Walmart, Loblaws and Sobeys – contained BPA in their linings. These are popular products such as beans, tomatoes, chicken broth, and cranberry sauce.

A national survey shows that 95 percent of Canadians have BPA in their bodies, and food contaminated with BPA from cans is a major source.

“The fact that many food cans contain endocrine-disrupting BPA means that Canadians may be eating food contaminated with the hormone-mimicking chemical,” said Maggie MacDonald, Toxics Program manager with Environmental Defence. “This is very disconcerting as Canadians who rely on canned foods in their diets may be at continuous risk of developing serious health problems.”

Canada banned the use of BPA in baby bottles in 2010. Costa Rica also banned BPA in baby bottles and other child feeding containers in 2010.

The European Union banned the use of BPA in baby bottles and sippy cups in 2011, but the ban was rescinded in 2015 after the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) published a contentious re-evaluation of BPA exposure and toxicity.

Some EU nation states – Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France and Sweden – continue to regulate BPA strictly, despite the EFSA ruling, but only France has banned BPA from the lining of all food cans.

To ensure food is not contaminated with BPA, the “Buyer Beware” report recommends that consumers:

  • Look for soups and sauces in glass or other safe packaging.
  • Use glass, ceramic and stainless steel food storage containers and water bottles.
  • Use glass and ceramic in the microwave.
  • Avoid canned foods and choose fresh and frozen foods instead.
  • Skip the can and make foods from scratch.

“Most people in the United States are exposed to BPA every day, largely from food packaging, despite the negative health impacts. It shouldn’t be a buyer beware situation for shoppers every time they set foot in the canned food aisle,” said Janet Nudelman, director of programs and policy for the Breast Cancer Fund.

“Campbell’s and other major national brands need to get BPA out of food can linings and fully disclose the identity and safety of any BPA alternatives they’re using,” Nudelman said. “Consumers deserve protection from the toxic effects of this hormonally active chemical and the likelihood of exposure to unsafe toxic alternatives.”


 

Food Supplies At Risk as Pollinators Vanish

ButterfliesThistlesBy Sunny Lewis

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, March 1, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – Apples, mangoes and almonds are delicious, pollinator-dependent foods, but these dietary staples are at risk because bees and other pollinators worldwide are disappearing, driven toward extinction by the pressures of living with humans.

The holes they are leaving in the fabric of life threaten millions of human livelihoods and hundreds of billions of dollars worth of human food supplies, finds the first global assessment of pollinators, published Friday.

Conducted by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), the two-year study highlights ways to effectively safeguard pollinator populations.

Based in Germany, IPBES was founded four years ago with 124 member nations to develop the intersection between international scientific understanding and public policymaking.

The organization’s first biodiversity assessment, “Thematic Assessment of Pollinators, Pollination and Food Production” was compiled by a team of 77 experts from all over the world. It underwent two rounds of peer review involving experts and governments.

The final assessment was presented at IPBES’ 4th Plenary meeting, which took place February 22-28 in Kuala Lumpur, hosted by the government of Malaysia.

With citations from some 3,000 scientific papers, it is the first such assessment based not only on scientific knowledge but also on indigenous and local knowledge. Information about indigenous and local practices comes from more than 60 locations around the world.

“Pollinators are important contributors to world food production and nutritional security. Their health is directly linked to our own well-being,” said Vera Lucia Imperatriz Fonseca, PhD, co-chair of the IPBES assessment and a senior professor at University of São Paulo in Brazil.

The study finds that more than three-quarters of the world’s food crops are pollinated by insects and other animals. Nearly 90 percent of all wild flowering plants depend on animal pollination, the study notes.

Each year, at least US$235 billion and up to US$577 billion worth of global food production relies on the actions of these pollinators.

BeeAppleTree

Honey bee in the apple tree, Ontario, Canada, 2007 (Photo by Mike Bowler) creative commons license via Flickr

There are more than 20,000 species of wild bees, plus other species: butterflies, flies, moths, wasps, beetles, birds, bats and other animals, that pollinate the foods we love best.

Crop yields depend on both wild and managed species, the researchers found.

Pollinated crops are fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts and oils – important sources of vitamins and minerals for human health and well being.

Chocolate, for example, comes from the seeds of the cacao tree. Two distinct kinds of midges are essential for the pollination of cacao trees, the study notes. No midges, no money. The annual value of the world’s cocoa bean crop is roughly US$5.7 billion.

“Without pollinators, many of us would no longer be able to enjoy coffee, chocolate and apples, among many other foods that are part of our daily lives,” said Simon Potts, PhD, the other assessment co-chair and professor of biodiversity and ecosystem services in the School of Agriculture, Policy and Development, University of Reading, UK.

Historically, bees have inspired art, music, religion and technology. Sacred passages about bees occur in all major world religions.

Food crops are not the only kind that need pollinators – there are the biofuels, such as canola and palm oils; fibers like cotton; medicines, livestock forage and construction materials. Some bee species make prime quality beeswax for candles and musical instruments, and arts and crafts.

But pollinators are disappearing. The study team estimated that 16 percent of vertebrate pollinators are threatened with global extinction, a number that increases to 30 percent for island species, with a trend toward more extinctions.

Global assessments are still lacking, but regional and national assessments show high levels of threat, especially for bees and butterflies. Often more than 40 percent of invertebrate species are threatened locally.

“Wild pollinators in certain regions, especially bees and butterflies, are being threatened by a variety of factors,” said IPBES Vice Chair Sir Robert Watson.

“Their decline is primarily due to changes in land use, intensive agricultural practices and pesticide use, alien invasive species, diseases and pests, and climate change,” said Watson, a British atmospheric chemist who has served as a chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The IPBES study confirms declines in regional wild pollinators for North Western Europe and North America.

Local cases of decline have been documented in other parts of the world, but data are too sparse to draw broad conclusions.

José Graziano da Silva, director-general of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, said, “Enhancing pollinator services is important for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, as well as for helping family farmers’ adaptation to climate change.”

The assessment found that pesticides, including the notorious neonicotinoid insecticides outlawed in some countries, threaten pollinators worldwide, although the long-term effects are still unknown.

Pests and diseases pose a special threat to managed bees, but the risk can be reduced through better disease detection and management, and regulations on the trade and movement of bees.

The effects of genetically modified crops on pollinators are poorly understood and not usually accounted for in risk assessments.

The decline of practices based on indigenous and local knowledge is a factor too. The traditional farming systems; maintenance of diverse landscapes and gardens; kinship relationships that protect specific pollinators; and cultures and languages that are connected to pollinators are all important in safeguarding the tiny creatures.

“The good news is that a number of steps can be taken to reduce the risks to pollinators, including practices based on indigenous and local knowledge,” said Zakri Abdul Hamid, elected founding chair of IPBES at its first plenary meeting in 2012.

So, one solution is supporting traditional practices that manage habitat patchiness, crop rotation, and coproduction between science and indigenous local knowledge, the study finds.

Safeguards include the promotion of sustainable agriculture, which helps diversify the agricultural landscape and makes use of ecological processes as part of food production.

Achim Steiner, executive director, UN Environmental Programme, thinks humans have to take this situation seriously, saying, “The growing threat to pollinators, which play an important role in food security, provides another compelling example of how connected people are to our environment, and how deeply entwined our fate is with that of the natural world.”


Award-winning journalist Sunny Lewis is founding editor in chief of the Environment News Service (ENS), the original daily wire service of the environment, publishing since 1990.

Main Image: In Lorton, Virginia, the Meadowood Special Recreation Management Area’s pollinator garden attracts butterfly species like these Eastern Tiger Swallowtails, Papilio Glaucus. (Photo by Jennifer Stratton, U.S. Bureau of Land Management, BLM Eastern States) public domain
Featured Image: Red-belted Bumble Bee, Bombus rufocinctus, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, August 2014 (Photo by Dan Mullen) creative commons license via Flickr