For the first time ever, food and agriculture took center stage at the annual United Nations climate conference in 2023. More than 130 countries signed a declaration on Dec. 1, committing to make their food systems – everything from production to consumption – a focal point in national strategies to address climate change. The declaration is thin on concrete actions to adapt to climate change and reduce emissions, but it draws attention to a crucial issue. The global food supply is increasingly facing disruptions from extreme heat and storms. It is also a major contributor to climate change, responsible for one-third of all greenhouse gas emissions from human activities.
Food and Agriculture
Major meat companies and industry lobby groups are planning a large presence at COP28 in a few days time, equipped with a communications plan to get a pro-meat message heard by policymakers throughout the summit, DeSmog can reveal. Documents seen by DeSmog and the Guardian show that the meat industry is poised to “tell its story and tell it well” in the lead up and during the Dubai conference, which comes on the heels of the world’s hottest ever year. The files relate how the world’s largest meat company, JBS, is planning to come out in “full force” at the summit, along with other big industry hitters such as the Global Dairy Platform and the North American Meat Institute.
On Thanksgiving, families across America are gathering around tables to enjoy the season’s bounty. Yet, behind the scenes, a complex web of challenges threatens the agricultural foundation of this tradition. The recent one-year extension of the 2018 Farm Bill by Congress has brought temporary relief, but the call for a new, comprehensive five-year farm bill echoes loudly. Wisconsin Farmers Union is raising its voice, emphasizing the urgent need to address issues plaguing family farmers and the agricultural sector as a whole. Gratitude for the bipartisan support in extending the 2018 Farm Bill is tempered by a pressing reality: the long-term stability of family farmers still hinges on a new, five-year farm bill.
Food systems are responsible for at least 15 percent of all global fossil fuel consumption, according to a major report launched ahead of the COP28 climate summit. The analysis shows that the production, transport, and storage of food are driving greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those of the EU and Russia combined. Ultra processed foods like snacks, drinks and ready meals, along with chemical fertilisers made from natural gas, are singled out as major sources of pollution. Published today (Thursday), the research comes weeks before global leaders gather in Dubai to discuss ways to limit catastrophic global heating.
As demand for seafood grows, including across the Hoosier state, a remote Indiana farm is harvesting thousands of pounds of salmon every year — on land. But the genetically modified fish teeming in the Albany tanks are continuing to draw pushback from environmental advocates who say the “Frankenfish” threaten local ecosystems and are not a sustainable food source. Engineered by biotech company AquaBounty Technologies Inc., the “AquAdvantage” salmon is the first such altered animal to be cleared for human consumption in the United States. The boycott against the salmon has largely come from activists with the Block Corporate Salmon campaign.
High up in Venezuela’s Andes, the township of Mucuchies is home to a campesino-led initiative striving for sustainable agricultural production. Integral Producers of the Highlands [PROINPA, for the organization’s Spanish-language initials] is widely recognized not only for its top-notch seed potatoes but also for its scientific initiatives such as a state-of-the-art biotechnology lab, a germplasm bank, and, most recently, an aeroponic seed production facility. One of the secrets to PROINPA’s success is its democratic organization and its emphasis on education. Founded 24 years ago, the organization’s structure has an assembly of associated producers as its topmost level of decision-making, meaning that the producers themselves are in charge.
Indigenous farmers from southern Mexico are organizing and creating seed banks to defend traditional maize from the climate crisis, in the midst of the Mexican government’s fight against genetically modified grains, mainly from the United States. In Oaxaca, southern Mexico, Bernardino Cruz, 48, planted two hectares of maize at the beginning of the rainy season, predicting a good harvest until the rains stopped during the last month. For this reason, he changed his planting method from rainfed to irrigated so as not to lose the production of the native “belatove” corn, an ear about 10 centimeters long composed of mostly white kernels.
In July, Gov. Tina Kotek signed Oregon Senate Bill 85, which places a moratorium on factory farms’ ability to use unlimited amounts of groundwater. While some advocates consider the bill to be a diluted compromise, it has potential to significantly limit the destructive activities of CAFOs in a state where a healthy remnant of the family farming economy still thrives. On a national level, it represents the first major state legislative victory against factory farming in the U.S. in years. SB 85 is the product of a years-long organizing effort, whose ultimate goal is to pass a full moratorium on new factory farms in Oregon.
Five homeschoolers pick fist-size garlic cloves, green jalapeños, strawberries, squash and kale on a breezy Thursday morning in late June. They’re volunteering at a local food garden where bright orange marigolds attract bees from a local keeper’s hive. The 1-acre garden has yielded about 10,000 pounds of produce for six food pantries since it began harvesting in April 2022. Texan by Nature, which manages the garden and was founded by former First Lady Laura Bush, estimates it has served approximately 2,000 people per month in Limestone, Freestone and Leon counties. Located in Freestone County about 60 miles east of Waco, NRG Dewey Prairie Garden is a part of a massive effort to restore a 35,000-acre lignite coal mine.
As some of the biggest companies – in particular meat and dairy firms – grow more concerned about their climate-villain images, they are turning to greenwashing techniques: well-known tactics deployed by oil and gas industries to shift the debate away from meaningful action. Often valid concepts in and of themselves, the problem lies in how they are touted as enviro-friendly actions while companies fail to cut their contribution to global heating. The agriculture industry has a lot to be worried about. Meat emits around a third of global emissions of methane, and action to cut this greenhouse gas has been identified by the UN and world leaders as the quickest route to slowing global heating. Farming also relies on synthetic fertilisers that are both fossil-fuel-based and emit greenhouse gases, and drives deforestation.
Dairy is a serious, but under-discussed source of planet-warming gases. Cows produce methane, a greenhouse gas that absorbs more atmospheric heat than carbon and is currently responsible for 25 percent of all global warming today. But its problems go well beyond the farm. The dairy industry’s emissions are also growing fast. From 2005 to 2015, dairy’s gaseous output increased by 18 percent. And while the highest levels of milk consumption per person are still concentrated in the Global North, most of the recent increase has occurred in low and middle-income countries where rising affluence has led to greater demand for dairy.
On Thursday Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva presented an ambitious plan to take the South American country off of the world hunger map. “The problem is not a lack of food, it is not a lack of crops, the problem is that the people do not have enough to buy food,” Lula said in a public event in the city of Teresina. In his speech he reminded that his program to fight poverty has as a connecting axis to address the structural causes of hunger that it is not limited to just economic aid but also must have an articulated policy. For this reason, he stressed that the Bolsa Familia program is not enough and does not represent a definitive solution, but a necessary step to ensure that the wealth produced in the country is distributed more equitably.
Stroll down the intersection of Bowdown and Topliff Streets in Boston and you’ll see the shiny automated doors of the brand new Dorchester Food Co-op, where a few friendly faces are adding some finishing touches to the space before it opens to the public in the coming weeks. The worker- and community-owned grocery store, which aims to increase access to nutritious and culturally relevant food, is a project over a decade in the making. As Next City reported during last year’s groundbreaking ceremony, the co-op is the result of more than 10 years of organizing around investors and gathering the funds to make a dream come true.
As the adage goes, when you find yourself stuck in a hole, stop digging. As African leaders and their philanthropic and bilateral sponsors prepare for another glitzy African Green Revolution Forum, convening September 5-8 in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, they are instead handing out new shovels to dig the continent deeper into a hunger crisis caused in part by their failing obsession with corporate-led industrialized agriculture. Instead of cutting food insecurity in half, as the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) promised at its founding in 2006, the continent has spiraled in the opposite direction.