The Global Fool

our planet is our village

The Golden Grain of the Andes: Are You Ready to Cook?
Dec04

The Golden Grain of the Andes: Are You Ready to Cook?

By The Editors The Golden Grain of the Andes — quinoa — is being praised all around the world. Indeed, the year 2013 is “The International Year of the Quinoa”, which celebrates not only quinoa, but also the indigenous peoples of the Andes, who have maintained, controlled, protected and preserved quinoa as food for present and future generations, thanks to their traditional knowledge and practices of living in harmony with nature.   A few days ago, in a speech dedicated to the introduction of “Quinoa in the Kitchen“, José Graziano da Silva (FAO Director-General), said “Quinoa is part of the effort to recover these lost foods and to promote traditional and forgotten crops. It is also part of the idea that food is not only a commodity. It is a lot more than that. It is also culture, it is also taste, it is also a lot of things that are closely related to our history,” According to the new publication “Quínoa is apparently flawless: it’s a food packed with protein and energy and, at the same time, is very easy to digest; post-harvest processing requires a lot of hard work, but, once it’s ready to sell, Quinoa is easy to keep, just as easy to cook and fast enough too for the pace of contemporary living. It’s also very versatile and, just like “real” cereals, can play different roles — in salads and side-dishes, in soups, patties and bread. And in its zones of origin it’s even used to make a chicha, the generic name given to all drinks made from sugared, fermented cereals.” This new publication is the result of a collaboration between the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and Slow Food, as these two organizations share a vision of a sustainable world — a world free from hunger and that safeguards biodiversity for future generations. The collaboration between FAO and Slow Food originates from their common goals and their mutual interest to promote the wealth of local gastronomic traditions in defense of food biodiversity and in support of smallholder farmers and producers. Quinoa is higher in protein than wheat, corn or rice, and it contains vitamins, minerals and essential amino acids that are important to human nutrition and otherwise not present all together in just one food source. In these cold days, try the quinoa and spinach soup (from Quinoa in the Kitchen): Serves 4 — 1 cup quinoa, 2 cups water, 1 white onion, 5 bunches of spinach roughly chopped, 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds, soy sauce, 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil. In a pan soften the onion in the oil...

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Sustainability in Action: Family Farming
Nov28

Sustainability in Action: Family Farming

By Roberta Attanasio There are many family farms in the world, farms based on rural activities managed and operated by a family — they deserve our support for their contribution to the global food system and are now a recognized reason for celebration worldwide. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that there are about 500 million of these farms on our planet.   The FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said in his statement of November 22, 2013 “Family farmers rely mainly on family labor. Many times they have little more than their own physical strength to harvest the land. They usually run non-specialized, diversified agricultural activities that give them a central role in securing environmental sustainability and preserving biodiversity. Because of all this, nothing comes closer to the sustainable food production paradigm than family farming. And throughout the world, family farmers have a huge productive potential. A potential that, in many cases, has yet to be reached.” Perhaps, the most significant expression of appreciation of family farming by the FAO Director-General is “But, strangely enough, family farmers are amongst the world’s most vulnerable population. Let’s not forget that over 70 percent of the food insecure population live in rural areas of developing countries. The truth is that, in many cases, family farmers were transformed into the subject of social policies. They were considered a problem to be solved. That is the mindset we need to change. Family farmers are not part of the problem. On the contrary. They are part of the solution for food security and sustainable development.” Last week, the United Nations launched the 2014 International Year of Family Farming, which aims to focus worldwide attention on family farmers and indentify effcient strategies for supporting them. WHY IS FAMILY FARMING IMPORTANT? (from the 2014 International Year of Family Farming website) Family and small-scale farming are inextricably linked to world food security. Family farming preserves traditional food products, while contributing to a balanced diet and safeguarding the world’s agro-biodiversity and the sustainable use of natural resources. Family farming represents an opportunity to boost local economies, especially when combined with specific policies aimed at social protection and well-being of communities. Let’s all find ways to support family farming and the role it plays in nourishing the...

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Sentinel Bottlenose Dolphins: Exposure to Toxic Chemicals
Oct22

Sentinel Bottlenose Dolphins: Exposure to Toxic Chemicals

By Roberta Attanasio Bottlenose dolphins – the playful, intelligent and sleek swimmers frequently seen in warm and shallow waters along coastlines – are important biological indicators or sentinels. As coastal dwellers, they are exposed to pollutants deriving from human activities and, as predators at the top of the food web, they can help evaluate the overall health status of their ecosystems. In 2011, two teams of researchers published results from their studies on bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncates) as indicators of persistent organic pollutants in coastal ecosystems. Persistent organic pollutants are toxic chemicals recognized as a global threat to human health and the environment. Because they can be transported by wind and water, most persistent organic pollutants generated in one location affect humans and wildlife far from where they are used and released. They persist for long periods of time in the environment and accumulate and transfer from one species to another through the food chain. One of the two teams of investigators studied dolphins from the Western North Atlantic Ocean and Northern Gulf of Mexico. Results from this study indicated widespread food web contamination. The other team studied dolphins from coastal Georgia, USA, and found that higher concentrations of persistent organic pollutants were present in dolphins closer to the contaminated site. In addition, male bottlenose dolphins had higher concentrations of persistent organic pollutants than any other marine mammal. Mercury is also a toxic chemical recognized as a global threat to human health and the environment. Mercury exists in various forms, and people are exposed to each of these forms in different ways. Dietary exposure is very common, and it occurs mostly by eating fish and shellfish containing methylmercury. How does methylmercury get into fish? Through a process called “bioaccumulation“. Microscopic organisms convert inorganic mercury into methylmercury, which is taken up by tiny aquatic plants and animals. Fish that eat these organisms build up methylmercury in their bodies and, as ever-bigger fish eat smaller ones, the methylmercury is concentrated further up the food chain. Concentrations of methylmercury in large fish can be over a million-fold higher than in the surrounding water. As mentioned above, bottlenose dolphins are top level marine predators and, therefore, potentially at risk of exposure to high concentrations of methylmercury. Now, results from a recent study carried out by researchers at the University of Alaska Fairbanks show that free-ranging bottlenose dolphins from Sarasota Bay, Florida, USA, contain blood amounts of total mercury (methylmercury and its demethylation product) 10- to 100-fold higher than relatively conservative benchmarks established for potential adverse effects in humans. The study, entitled “Distribution of mercury and selenium in blood compartments of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) from Sarasota Bay, Florida” and published...

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Reduction of Livestock Gas Emissions May Be Within Reach
Oct02

Reduction of Livestock Gas Emissions May Be Within Reach

By The Editors Livestock is known to be a major global threat to the environment. In 2006, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) released a highly influential report (Livestock’s Long Shadow – Environmental Issues and Option) stating that the livestock sector generates more greenhouse gas emissions as measured in CO2 equivalent – 18 percent – than transport. It is also a major source of land and water degradation. Henning Steinfeld, senior author of the 2006 report said at that time: “Livestock are one of the most significant contributors to today’s most serious environmental problems. Urgent action is required to remedy the situation.” These words are certainly true today.   On September 26, 2013, the FAO released a new report, entitled “Tackling climate change through livestock: A global assessment of emissions and mitigation opportunities”, which represents the most comprehensive estimate made to-date of livestock’s contribution to global warming – as well as the sector’s potential to help tackle the problem. The report foreword states: “It is easy to draw a dramatic picture of today’s world. Climate change, the most serious  environmental challenge humanity has to face, is threatening the well-being of the next generation. Globalization has led to rapid economic, social and technological changes that have left too many behind. Hunger is still a persistent problem, affecting over 900 million human beings worldwide. Faced with these issues, we sometimes feel overwhelmed by their magnitude and powerless.” According to the report, greenhouse gas emissions associated with livestock supply chains add up to 7.1 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per year – or 14.5 percent of all human-caused greenhouse gas releases. The main sources of emissions are: feed production and processing (45 percent of the total), outputs of greenhouse gas during digestion by cows (39 percent), manure decomposition (10 percent). The remainder is attributable to the processing and transportation of animal products. However, the foreword also states: “But we need not despair. Difficult problems can be tackled for the benefit of many if we apply the right policies that support the required innovation and investment. We have known for several years that livestock supply chains are an important contributor to climate change. This new report shows that the potential to significantly reduce emissions exists and is within reach. Options are available for all species, systems and regions. But we need political will and better policies.” Indeed, the report reveals that greenhouse gas emissions by the livestock sector could be cut by as much as 30 percent through the wider use of existing best practices and technologies. The potential for achieving emissions reductions lies in enabling all livestock producers to change to...

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Food Waste Harms Climate, Water, Land and Biodiversity
Sep14

Food Waste Harms Climate, Water, Land and Biodiversity

By The Editors The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) released a few days ago a report detailing the first study to analyze the impacts of global food wastage from an environmental perspective, looking specifically at its consequences for the climate, water and land use, and biodiversity. Key facts and figures from the report are: The global volume of food wastage is estimated at 1.6 billion tonnes of “primary product equivalents.” Total food wastage for the edible part of this amounts to 1.3 billion tonnes. Food wastage’s carbon footprint is estimated at 3.3 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent of GHG released into the atmosphere per year. The total volume of water used each year to produce food that is lost or wasted (250km3) is equivalent to the annual flow of Russia’s Volga River, or three times the volume of Lake Geneva. Similarly, 1.4 billion hectares of land – 28 percent of the world’s agricultural area – is used annually to produce food that is lost or wasted. Agriculture is responsible for a majority of threats to at-risk plant and animal species tracked by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. A low percentage of all food wastage is composted: much of it ends up in landfills, and represents a large part of municipal solid waste. Methane emissions from landfills represents one of the largest sources of GHG emissions from the waste sector. Home composting can potentially divert up to 150 kg of food waste per household per year from local collection authorities. Developing countries suffer more food losses during agricultural production, while in middle- and high-income regions, food waste at the retail and consumer level tends to be higher. The direct economic consequences of food wastage (excluding fish and seafood) run to the tune of $750 billion annually. “All of us – farmers and fishers; food processors and supermarkets; local and national governments; individual consumers — must make changes at every link of the human food chain to prevent food wastage from happening in the first place, and re-use or recycle it when we can’t,” said FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva. “We simply cannot allow one-third of all the food we produce to go to waste or be lost because of inappropriate practices, when 870 million people go hungry every day,” he added. Achim Steiner, UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director, said: “UNEP and FAO have identified food waste and loss –food wastage– as a major opportunity for economies everywhere to assist in a transition towards a low carbon, resource efficient and inclusive Green Economy. Today’s excellent report by FAO underlines the multiple benefits that can...

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