Category Archives: Food

Americans feel guilty over food waste, but. . .


Agreement with statements related to food waste.

Agreement with statements related to food waste.

Doing anything about it on the domestic scene is just too much of a bother, according to a new report from Ohio State University:

Even though American consumers throw away about 80 billion pounds of food a year, only about half are aware that food waste is a problem. Even more, researchers have identified that most people perceive benefits to throwing food away, some of which have limited basis in fact.

A study published today in PLOS ONE [open access] 77is just the second peer-reviewed large-scale consumer survey about food waste and is the first in the U.S. to identify patterns regarding how Americans form attitudes on food waste.

The results provide the data required to develop targeted efforts to reduce the amount of food that U.S. consumers toss into the garbage each year, said study co-author Brian Roe, the McCormick Professor of Agricultural Marketing and Policy at The Ohio State University.

The researchers developed a national survey to identify Americans’ awareness and attitudes regarding food waste. In July 2015, it was administered to 500 people representative of the U.S. population.

The study found that 53 percent of respondents said they were aware that food waste is a problem. This is about 10 percent higher than a Johns Hopkins study published last year, Roe said, which indicates awareness of the problem could be growing.

“But it’s still amazingly low,” he said. “If we can increase awareness of the problem, consumers are more likely to increase purposeful action to reduce food waste. You don’t change your behavior if you don’t realize there’s a problem in the first place.”

Among other findings, the study identified general patterns that play a role in people’s attitudes regarding household food waste.

“Generally, we found that people consider three things regarding food waste,” said doctoral student Danyi Qi, who co-authored the study. “They perceive there are practical benefits, such as a reduced risk of foodborne illness, but at the same time they feel guilty about wasting food. They also know that their behaviors and how they manage their household influences how much food they waste.”

In particular, the survey revealed patterns in how Americans think about food waste:

  • Perceived benefits: 68 percent of respondents believe that throwing away food after the package date has passed reduces the chance of foodborne illness, and 59 percent believe some food waste is necessary to be sure meals are fresh and flavorful.
  • Feelings of guilt: 77 percent feel a general sense of guilt when throwing away food. At the same time, only 58 percent indicated they understand that throwing away food is bad for the environment, and only 42 percent believe wasted food is a major source of wasted money.
  • Control: 51 percent said they believe it would be difficult to reduce household food waste and 42 percent say they don’t have enough time to worry about it. Still, 53 percent admit they waste more food when they buy in bulk or purchase large quantities during sales. At the same time, 87 percent think they waste less food than similar households.

There’s more, after the jump. Continue reading

Headline of the day: Let’s scarf up some shit, dude


Toronto ponders the origin of the feces, via the Independent:

First poo-themed dessert cafe set to open in Canada

The restroom-restaurant will be a first for a city that is renowned for its varied and international culinary scene

Biodiversity plunges, and human action is to blame


Two new major studies examine the alarming loss of species on Planet Earth directly attributable to human action, action, and the results are, as you may expect, alarming.

And with the acceleration of global climate change, the outlook for the future looks increasingly grim.

Percentages of original species still surviving after the introduction off modern agriculture.

Percentages of original species still surviving after the advent of Homo sapiens.

The first study takes a broad look at the impacts of all human action on biodiversity.

From University College London:

Levels of global biodiversity loss may negatively impact on ecosystem function and the sustainability of human societies, according to UCL-led research.

“This is the first time we’ve quantified the effect of habitat loss on biodiversity globally in such detail and we’ve found that across most of the world biodiversity loss is no longer within the safe limit suggested by ecologists” explained lead researcher, Dr Tim Newbold from UCL and previously at UNEP-WCMC.

“We know biodiversity loss affects ecosystem function but how it does this is not entirely clear. What we do know is that in many parts of the world, we are approaching a situation where human intervention might be needed to sustain ecosystem function.”

The team found that grasslands, savannas and shrublands were most affected by biodiversity loss, followed closely by many of the world’s forests and woodlands. They say the ability of biodiversity in these areas to support key ecosystem functions such as growth of living organisms and nutrient cycling has become increasingly uncertain.

The study, published today in Science [$30 for one-day access to the article], led by researchers from UCL, the Natural History Museum and UNEP-WCMC, found that levels of biodiversity loss are so high that if left unchecked, they could undermine efforts towards long-term sustainable development.

For 58.1% of the world’s land surface, which is home to 71.4% of the global population, the level of biodiversity loss is substantial enough to question the ability of ecosystems to support human societies. The loss is due to changes in land use and puts levels of biodiversity beyond the ‘safe limit’ recently proposed by the planetary boundaries – an international framework that defines a safe operating space for humanity.

“It’s worrying that land use has already pushed biodiversity below the level proposed as a safe limit,” said Professor Andy Purvis of the Natural History Museum, London, who also worked on the study. “Decision-makers worry a lot about economic recessions, but an ecological recession could have even worse consequences – and the biodiversity damage we’ve had means we’re at risk of that happening. Until and unless we can bring biodiversity back up, we’re playing ecological roulette.”

The team used data from hundreds of scientists across the globe to analyse 2.38 million records for 39,123 species at 18,659 sites where are captured in the database of the PREDICTS project. The analyses were then applied to estimate how biodiversity in every square kilometre land has changed since before humans modified the habitat.

They found that biodiversity hotspots – those that have seen habitat loss in the past but have a lot of species only found in that area – are threatened, showing high levels of biodiversity decline. Other high biodiversity areas, such as Amazonia, which have seen no land use change have higher levels of biodiversity and more scope for proactive conservation.

“The greatest changes have happened in those places where most people live, which might affect physical and psychological wellbeing. To address this, we would have to preserve the remaining areas of natural vegetation and restore human-used lands,” added Dr Newbold.

The team hope the results will be used to inform conservation policy, nationally and internationally, and to facilitate this, have made the maps from this paper and all of the underlying data publicly available.

Animal species lost because of agricultural production

Species loss due to agricultural production.

Species loss due to agricultural production.

A second major study, this time conducted under the auspices of the European Commission: look at species loss specifically related to agricultural production.

The results are equally alarming.

From the European Commission:

In the past 500 years, over 300 vertebrate species have gone extinct, and many more are under threat of extinction — causing a lamentable decline in the variety of life on the planet. Biodiversity provides important benefits, from pollination to nutrient cycling, that are vital for human health and the economy. There is, therefore, an urgent need to address the causes of biodiversity loss.

Agriculture is a major driver of biodiversity decline. As the world’s economies are become more and more connected, international flows of crops and their products are increasing and it is important to understand the environmental effect of these changes.

There’s lots more, after the jump. . . Continue reading

Headline of the day: American image obsession


From the Guardian:

Half of all US food produce is thrown away, new research suggests

The demand for ‘perfect’ fruit and veg means much is discarded, damaging the climate and leaving people hungry

El Niño/La Niña cycle boosts African HIV rates


Drought spawned by the El Niño/La Niña cycle has created times of desperation in Southern Africa, with failing harvest leading more women to sell sex in order to survive, UNICEF reports.

From the Thomson Reuters Foundation:

Drought exacerbated by the El Nino weather pattern could lead to a spike in new HIV infections in southern Africa as women and girls turn to sex to survive and patients miss treatments, the United Nations childrens’ agency UNICEF said on Tuesday.

More than 60 million people, two thirds of them in east and southern Africa, are facing food shortages because of droughts linked to El Nino, a warming of sea-surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean, according to the United Nations.

Many patients are refusing to take anti-retroviral therapy (ART) on an empty stomach, others are deciding to spend their limited income on food rather than transport to a health facility, UNICEF said.

“People sometimes are having to resort to these extreme choices between eating and taking life-saving medication,” Patsy Nakell, UNICEF spokeswoman, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“This is the global epicentre of the HIV epidemic and when you have a situation like this where people are struggling to have access to food and to clean water then you know (they) will resort to what we call negative coping mechanisms.”

Once again, we are confronted with the multiplicity of complex systems, in which a change in one factor leads to changed outputs from other factors.

Climate change means more than rising seas and endangered coastal cities.

Zapatistas give food to striking Mexican teachers


Striking teachers in Oaxaca from Mexico’s Coordinadora Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación [CNTE] union have a new ally, the Zapatistas.

The teachers have been waging a long struggle [previously] with the government of President Enrique Peña Nieto, fighting to roll back neoliberal education reforms.

From teleSUR English:

Zapatista Indigenous groups delivered almost three tons of food to the striking teachers of the CNTE dissident union in the impoverished state of Chiapas in southern Mexico, Friday.

Trucks with sacks of food began arriving in the City of Palenque, located in the north of Chiapas and famous for its Mayan ruins, on Friday morning.

The supplies were delivered to union teachers and will be distributed among the teachers, who have erected blockades on highways as part of protests in opposition to the education reforms of President Enrique Peña Nieto.

The National Indigenous Council and the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, or EZLN, have long supported CNTE teachers in Chiapas and have publicly criticized the state’s repression of protesters and activists.

The Zapatistas have encouraged teachers affiliated with the CNTE union to keep fighting, especially after the massacre in the Indigenous community of Nochixtlan in Oaxaca on June 19, when 11 people lost their lives.

El Niño aftermath brings specter of starvation


And those most deeply impacted are children in some of the world’s poorest countries.

We begin with a map from the UNICEF Briefing Papers It’s not over, El Niño’s impact on children:

EL NIÑO AND LA NIÑA RAINFALL: El Niño and La Niña conditions in the tropical Pacific are known to shift rainfall patterns in many different parts of the world. Although they vary somewhat from one to the next, the strongest shifts remain fairly consistent in the regions and seasons shown.

EL NIÑO AND LA NIÑA RAINFALL: El Niño and La Niña conditions in the tropical Pacific are known to shift rainfall patterns in many different parts of the world. Although they vary somewhat from one to the next, the strongest shifts remain fairly consistent in the regions and seasons shown.

And the story, via the United Nations News Center:

While the 2015-2016 El Niño – one of the strongest on record – has ended, its devastating impact on children is worsening, as hunger, malnutrition and disease continue to increase following the severe droughts and floods spawned by the event, a new report from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) revealed today.

Making matters worse, there is a strong chance La Niña – El Niño’s flip side – could strike at some stage this year, further exacerbating a severe humanitarian crisis that is affecting millions of children in some of the most vulnerable communities, UNICEF said in a report It’s not over – El Niño’s impact on children.

El Niño is the term used to describe the warming of the central to eastern tropical Pacific that occurs, on average, every three to seven years. It raises sea surface temperatures and impacts weather systems around the globe so that some places receive more rain while others receive none at all, often in a reversal of their usual weather pattern.

While El Niño, and its counterpart La Niña, occur cyclically, in recent years, mainly due to the effects of global climate change, extreme weather events associated with these phenomena – such as droughts and floods – have increased in frequency and severity, according to UN agencies.

“Millions of children and their communities need support in order to survive. They need help to prepare for the eventuality La Niña will exacerbate the humanitarian crisis. And they need help to step up disaster risk reduction and adaptation to climate change, which is causing more intense and more frequent extreme weather events,” said UNICEF’s Director of Emergency Programs, Afshan Khan.

There’s more, after the jump. . . Continue reading