News Selection – Food Security
Recent news chosen to illustrate and update Tread Softly briefings on Food Security.
Technological breakthroughs are changing how researchers observe the world’s fishing fleet
14/8/2018: For decades, researchers studying the global fishing industry had to cope with minimal data about what goes on out at sea. Technological breakthroughs in recent years are putting an end to that. Source: Mongabay
Tread Softly Comment: These uplifting examples illustrate how satellite data collected from automatic identification systems (AIS) has transformed capacity to detect illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. However, the article doesn't mention that data integrity can be undermined by ships that become "dark" by switching off their AIS. Although contrary to maritime regulations, this practice has also been reported in the context of ships' captains who wish to avoid their obligation to rescue migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean. Relevant Briefing: Causes of Biodiversity Loss
1/8/2018: A study conducted by researchers at UC Santa Barbara shows that wealthy countries’ industrial fishing fleets dominate the global oceans. This skew in power and control has important implications for how our planet shares food and wealth. Source: UC Santa Barbara
Tread Softly Comment: Too often the debate about global food security completely overlooks the importance of marine resources, which make a significant contribution to human needs for protein. This research is especially welcome because its primary focus is the imbalance in global fishing capacity between richer and poorer countries. The full paper is packed with killer facts; Spain allows foreign vessels only 4% of the catch in its own waters, whilst hoovering up 45% of resources in Guinea-Bissau. Big data tools make a key contribution to the research, although the extent of illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing remains uncertain. Relevant Briefing: Governance of Food Security
Climate change and farming: 'Unpredictability is here to stay'
31/7/2018: In many parts of the world, droughts are getting longer, more intense and more frequent. Alex Jones, climate and environment director at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), tells DW about the risk to food security. Source: DW
Tread Softly Comment: Whether by chance or design, this interview poses an intriguing paradox. It presents a familiar agenda of food security issues for poor farmers - but there's no identification of developing regions or countries under discussion. Then you notice that the accompanying video and images represent German farmers grappling with the European heatwave. It's as though Germany has migrated from an FAO donor to beneficiary country, teasing the division between rich and poor countries that so often stifles climate discourse. Relevant Briefing: Solutions to Food Insecurity
What Is a Genetically Modified Crop? A European Ruling Sows Confusion
27/7/2018: In Europe, plants created with gene-editing technologies will be stringently regulated as GMOs. But older crops whose DNA has been altered will be left alone. Source: New York Times
Tread Softly Comment: This convoluted EU verdict on GMOs wriggles on the hook that suggests all technologies are equal but some are more equal than others. You can't blame scientists for exasperation. This helpful article provides background to the various crop modification methods, from a broadly neutral perspective. Relevant Briefing: Solutions to Food Security
UN report underscores value of fishing in fight against global hunger
9/7/2018: According to the latest State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture report, nearly 60 million people worldwide are directly employed in the sector. Fisheries are crucial in meeting the goal of a world without hunger. Source: UN News
Tread Softly Comment: The report is accompanied by helpful data visualisations and summaries. In the full text version, the section on Climate Change Impacts and Responses (p130) is by far the most important, although it's weak on ocean acidification. Relevant Briefing: Causes of Biodiversity Loss
New EU biofuel rules not enough to help people or the planet
14/6/2018: The EU's Renewable Energy Directive for the period 2021-2030 envisages that 7% of transport fuel will be sourced by biofuels made from food crops. This could fuel climate change, food price spikes and land grabs, warns Oxfam.
Government subsidies prop up destructive high-seas fishing
8/6/2018: More than half of fisheries on the world’s high seas would be running a loss without the billions of dollars in government subsidies that keep the ecologically destructive industry afloat, a recent study suggests.
Failed farmland deals: a growing legacy of disaster
6/6/2018: Remember the landgrabbing scandals that emerged in the aftermath of the food price crisis a decade ago? A significant number of the acquisitions have collapsed. Now the challenge is to return land to its original community owners.
Monsanto to ditch its infamous name
4/6/2018: The Monsanto company name, a longstanding target of environmental activists, will disappear after the completion of its sale to the German company Bayer. But Friends of the Earth expects to be monitoring the new owner just as closely.
Making agriculture work for biodiversity
29/5/2018: In holding a high level 3-day conference on "Biodiversity Mainstreaming across Agricultural Sectors", the UN Food and Agriculture Organization appears to downplay agribusiness methods of tackling food insecurity.