Ambitious Action Is Required to Mend the Global Food Production and Pricing System

Ahead of the June G20 Summit, the charity Oxfam launched a campaign, called Grow, and at its US launch Oxfam America President Ray Offenheiser said that the entire food system as we know it is fundamentally broken.

Even if we leave aside the questionable ethics of commodity price speculation on basic foods in a world where people starve in one place while food is thrown away in another, there is something badly out of balance with food production.

It is not wholly clear what sparked the recent E Coli outbreak in Germany, for example. First Spanish cucumbers, then German bean sprout seeds and now seeds originating from a company in the UK have been identified as being the cause, though so far without as yet any hard scientific proof.

This is a good illustration what Offenheiser was talking about. Often we do not know where our food has come from, how it has been produced and how far it has had to travel from seed to supermarket. At the same time we do not know whether the farmers who produced it were making a fair return for their effort or were eking out a living while struggling to survive themselves on the uneven playing field that is the global food market.

One of the five key areas where Oxfam’s Grow campaign was calling for action was in providing aid to small producers in developing countries. 500 million small-scale food producers in poor countries feed nearly one-third of humanity.

The charity argues that while investment in smallholder agriculture should be tailored to the particular contexts of the farmers, its ultimate aim in working with small farmers is to shift towards the least external inputs possible while increasing productivity.

The CEO of the world’s largest biopesticides research and development organisation based in the US also argues that investment in small farmers is needed and has said that his company’s focus on the research and development of low-chem bio-pesticides, bio-fungicides and yield enhancing agricultural products is aimed to help farmers provide safer, healthier foods to consumers without compromising the quality of their land and ultimately the environment on which we all depend.

He, also, has said that it is scandalous that in such a diverse and rich world so many people still suffer malnutrition and starvation and that lack of investment and resources mean that many developing world farmers are faced with an unacceptable choice between producing enough food and draining their land of precious goodness in the effort to do so.

Plainly there is some agreement from both the charity sector and organizations within the food production system that action is needed and even on where it should be targeted.

The June 2011 G20 meeting did announce an action plan. It called for a big increase in productivity and greater transparency in commodity markets as a way of curbing volatility in food prices. It proposed an agricultural market information system (Amis) to provide accurate and timely information on crop supply, demand and food stocks and promised to give special attention to smallholders, especially women, in particular in developing countries, and to young farmers to improve productivity.

As Oxfam and other campaigners pointed out afterwards, however, without any detailed figures, targets or deadlines much of the announcement could be seen as empty rhetoric.

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Olivier De Schutter, summed up his reaction to the action plan by saying it had addressed the symptoms but not the root causes of the problem. His view was that it was only a step in the right direction when the current situation called for an ambitious jump forward.

Copyright (c) 2011 Alison Withers

Middle East Unrest Exposes Food Production’s Vulnerability to Oil

Oil prices have climbed to almost the heights of two years ago as a result of the popular uprisings across North Africa and the Middle East and there is no telling whether they will rise further or how long they will stay that way.

Meanwhile, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation reported that food prices had risen in February 2011 above their previous peak in 2008 and warned that they could rise even further as the unrest continues or spreads further.

All this emphasises the vulnerability of food production because of its dependence on oil and petroleum products for much of the process, starting from the production of synthetic fertiliser and continuing through industrial-style farming to the transport and processing of produce before it reaches the shops.

The connection between oil and food production and the effect of oil prices on food prices has been well rehearsed, and it is ironic that these democracy movements should have first emerged in protest at high food prices, among other things, in an area that is a major oil producer.

But the most interesting piece of recent news is an article in the China Post, Singapore, on March 7 2011. The piece, reporting on a workshop among scientists, revealed that unrestrained manufacture of what it called “cheap” pesticides and their overuse was causing problems throughout Asia’s rice paddy fields, which it said was destroying the surrounding ecosystems and actually allowing pests to thrive and multiply.

It reported that the problem was that poorly-trained farmers who were under pressure to raise crop yields were relying too much on these chemical pesticides. According to one of the participating scientists, George Lukacs, of Australia, large outbreaks of pests, called “pest storms” have been reported in China as a result.

All this suggests that the alleged benefits of cheap oil-dependent pesticides are far outweighed by the consequences of their over-use and it all reinforces the urgent need to give farmers across the world access to equally cheap but more environmentally friendly agricultural products, particularly pesticides, in order to reduce the dependence on synthetic pesticides and the reliance of oil in the food production process.

Equally important is the need for farmers to have widespread access to proper training in their use.

Research into alternatives to the older generation of synthetic, chemical-based pesticides has produced many safer, low-chemical products from the biopesticides developers. They include biopesticides, biofungicides and yield enhancers that harness use natural ingredients to which local pests and plant diseases are vulnerable.

They include crop solutions to protect soy beans, corn and wheat as well as a variety of vegetables including protection from bacterial diseases in tomatoes and peppers, to provide protection from soil diseases in potatoes and biofungicides to protect leafy vegetables from fungal diseases by harnessing the powerful biochemistry of Bacillus subtilis, a bacterial microorganism that is commonly found in the environment.

These low-chem agricultural products also leave little or no residue in the foods produced and in the land, so that damage to the surrounding ecosystem is minimised. They make it possible for farmers to increase their crop yields by cutting down the losses from diseases without depleting the land’s goodness.

It is possible that the turmoil in North Africa and the Middle East and consequent uncertainty about oil supplies will give governments across the world the incentive to accelerate their processes of getting alternative, natural and more environmentally friendly, less oil-dependent agricultural products through the registration and licensing processes more quickly and available to farmers more cheaply.

It may be hoped also that the result will be healthier, more natural and affordable food for all consumers around the world and better protection for the environment on which we all depend.

Copyright (c) 2011 Alison Withers

How To Buy Food Products Online

Did you know that you can buy food products online? While it’s easy to do it, you need to be very cautious when making the purchase. To help you out here are some of the things that you should do:

Know your Rights

You need to know your rights as a customer. One of your rights is to have all the information that you need about the product that you are buying. Before you make the purchase, you should be able to see the date of manufacture of the product. You should also be able to see the ingredients used in making the food product.

It’s also your right to have a cooling-off period. In most of the cases the period is seven working days. During this time you can cancel your order any time unless you have ordered a perishable product. Before you make the purchase you should ensure that the site you want to buy from gives you the cooling-off period.

What to Accept and Reject

After you have placed your order the company will pack your product and send it to you within the agreed time. When you receive the product you shouldn’t accept it unless it’s what you ordered. As rule of thumb you shouldn’t accept the product if:

  • It’s dented, swollen or the can is leaking
  • Is damaged or in an imperfect packaging
  • Is soiled or moldy
  • You have doubts about its quality

If you don’t like the product that is sent to you, you should resend it to the company and write to the company explaining the reasons why you have rejected it.

You should wait for the company to respond to your message and send you the right product. If you the company doesn’t respond to your message in time and doesn’t send you the product that you are looking for you should launch a complain. When filing the complaint you should include the date of order, what you had ordered, amount paid, reference number, reason for complaint and any other relevant information.

If you aren’t satisfied with the response that you get from the company you should contact the local authority where the company is based.

Conclusion

This is what you need to know about buying food products online. To have an easy time and buy the right product, you should do your research and only work with the reputable companies dealing with the product that you are interested in.

Some Tips to Labeling Food Products

Food products are different with other products. You will find that labeling these products is also different with others. When it comes to labeling food products, there are many things that you should do. You should gather and present the information related to regulations the agencies in labeling needs. You should also design and print the label that you have.

Label on food products should provide the information that customers need so that they will know whether they want to buy the products or not. You will find that label can be functioned as a marketing tool for your products. Thus, you should make your label perfect. The following tips will help you to make label for your food products with correct equipment and software.

Firstly, you should get the information about food labels form the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In this case, you should fulfill all the requirements that FDA requires. In the requirements, you will find that there are some things that you should include to your label such as the name of the food product, its quantity, its nutritional information and he expiration date for the food.

Secondly, you should create the label that you want. Make sure that you include all the requirements that you got from the FDA. Make sure that create the label as attractive as possible. You should include your company logo so that the customers will recognize your better.

Thirdly, you can print the label that you have designed. For this, you can print by yourself or bring to the specialist in printing food products. If you want to print the label by yourself, you have to make sure that you have the equipment. But, you should choose the correct label stock for your products for example waterproof label for food that will be frozen or refrigerated.