| Farming

Heatwave in Europe set to push up UK food prices

1 week 5 days ago

Wheat and vegetable crops are struggling throughout the continent with price rises on the way

The ongoing heatwave is starting to burn a hole in Britons’ pockets, as higher food prices linked to scorched harvests across Europe reach shops and restaurants.

“Today I am selling a box of broccoli for £8 but by Monday that could have doubled,” says Paul Murphy, a director of Yes Chef,based at London’s New Covent Garden market, which supplies fruit and vegetables to restaurants in the capital.

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Zoe Wood and Sarah Butler

Farm regrets opening fields after social-media butterflies trample flowers

2 weeks ago

Police were called after swarms descended on site to snap selfies with sunny crop

The hope was to earn a little extra income during the two weeks that the family farm’s crop was in bloom.

But Ontario’s largest sunflower grower soon found itself backtracking on the idea, after it was swarmed by selfie-seeking visitors who trampled all over their crops and clogged up the nearby highway.

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Ashifa Kassam in Toronto

UK farmers allowed to take more water from rivers as heatwave continues

2 weeks ago

Environment secretary holds drought summit with farmers to address series issues of crop failure and lack of fodder for animals

Farmers will be allowed to take up more groundwater to irrigate parched crops during the ongoing heatwave, after a “drought summit” between farming leaders and the environment secretary, Michael Gove.

Farmers have suffered in the heat, with crops wilting or failing to reach their full size, and livestock running short of grass and fodder. Prices on some foods are already increasing, and price rises may be necessary for some staple goods later in the year, with the next few months crucial for the harvest.

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Fiona Harvey Environment correspondent

Donald Trump gets a helping hand from the Brussels bean-counters | Daniel Boffey

2 weeks 1 day ago

EU pledge to import more US soya beans will give president a boost in midterm elections

It might not avert a transatlantic trade war in the long term, but it will keep the bean counters in Brussels busy.

With all the gravity of a Soviet commissar, Jean-Claude Juncker announced on Wednesday that he had ordered a fortnightly count of the number of US soya beans imported into the EU.

Related: Why America’s cheese capital is at the center of Trump’s trade war

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Daniel Boffey in Brussels

The startup making shirts out of cow poo

2 weeks 1 day ago

Cow waste is a global environmental issue. Jalila Essaïdi and Dutch farmers are tackling the problem by transforming manure into materials

Would you buy a shirt that has been through the back end of a cow? This could be a future fabric choice according to one Dutch startup, which is extracting cellulose from cowpats to make “manure couture”.

Jalila Essaïdi believes that a non-vegan future will involve recycling cow manure into cellulose fibre, bioplastics, chemical concentrates and pure water – and being less squeamish about it, too.

Related: Ten ways to make fashion greener

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Senay Boztas in Amsterdam

'Brexit created doubt': Romanian workers turn backs on UK farms

2 weeks 2 days ago

Weak pound and strong economies elsewhere make UK a less enticing prospect for seasonal staff

“This is the hardest year,” says Alexandru Barbacaru, director of Est-Vest Services, a Romanian employment agency for temporary workers for the UK.

Sitting in his office in central Bucharest, his desk cluttered with filled-in application forms and tax documents for past and present workers, Barbacaru explains the mounting difficulties for companies such as his, which for years have helped supply British farms with the fruit pickers and other labourers they need to bring in their harvests.

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Kit Gillet in Bucharest

Livestock treatment may offer solution to antibiotics crisis, say scientists

2 weeks 2 days ago

Dosing animals with antibodies from their own immune systems could prevent illness and reduce the need for antibiotics

Using animals’ own immune systems may provide a way to reduce the overuse of antibiotics in farming, replacing the drugs with cheap farm byproducts and cutting the growing risk of resistance to common medicines, new research has suggested.

Natural antibodies, produced by the immune system without previous infection, in animals and humans, can protect the body against harmful bacteria. They are present in some usually unconsidered farm byproducts, such as the whey left over from milk production, and they could be administered to animals easily in feed.

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Fiona Harvey Environment correspondent

Extreme weather could push UK food prices up this year, say farmers

2 weeks 3 days ago

Crops are wilting in parched fields, lowering the yields of kitchen staples including meat, wheat, potatoes, onions and milk

Staple foods from bread to potatoes, onions, milk and meat may be in shorter supply than usual this year and prices to consumers may have to rise, farmers have said, as they count the cost of the two-month drought and heatwave across the UK.

There will be little respite from the hot weather in many areas of the country, even as thunderstorms and heavy rains spread from the east, as farmers have seen their crops wilt, their fields parched and livestock struggle in the extreme conditions.

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Fiona Harvey Environment correspondent

The Brexit-influencing game: how IEA got involved with a US rancher

2 weeks 3 days ago

Exclusive: UK thinktank denies dealings with Tucker Link and others amounted to ‘cash for access’

The peaceful creeks and lakes of rural Oklahoma are a world away from the frenzied political fight over Brexit.

More than 4,000 miles from Westminster, this is the stomping ground of Tucker Link, an influential US business figure who appears to have taken a keen interest in the UK’s departure from the EU.

The Institute of Economic Affairs was established in 1955 by admirers of the free-market economist Friedrich Hayek. Its mission involves “analysing and expounding the role of markets in solving economic and social problems”. 

A report by the Soil Association highlights 10 concerns about food safety in a post-Brexit era. These foods are currently banned in the UK:

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Robert Booth and Damian Carrington

Why there's a buzz about Helen Jukes' beekeeping memoir

2 weeks 3 days ago

Ground down by office work, the author took up beekeeping to find a new purpose … and love. She explains why honeybees are good counsellors

‘I was facing the bees, but I also ended up facing myself in that relationship, and once you begin facing stuff maybe things begin opening up.” The writer Helen Jukes trails off, shrugs apologetically. “I’m being really inarticulate about this and I’m not sure why.” She’s happy enough to talk about the bees she kept in her back garden, to explore the changing symbolism of the hive throughout the ages. But when the conversation shifts to the relationship whose first steps she charts in her memoir, she’s not sure what to say. “I’m a bit wary about it being billed as a love story. It’s true, all of this stuff did happen, but I haven’t quite found the right words to describe it.”

The story of this burgeoning relationship is only one strand of her captivating debut, A Honeybee Heart Has Five Openings. In it, Jukes charts how a year spent looking after a beehive helped her throw off the deadening grind of her working life and reconnect with friendship and the natural world. As the bees buzzed back and forth, her growing fascination with the changing rituals of the insects living in her garden offered new perspectives both on her job and everything outside the office walls. What she saw when she lifted off the lid of the hive was so alien that by looking at them intently she became steadily more attuned to her own humanity.

You can think of a colony either as individuals or a collective. The whole of beekeeping history seems to be this repetition of confusion

I didn't find something separate from the human world. I found an ecology massively implicated by me, the people around me and the environment around us

Related: A Honeybee Heart has Five Openings and Buzz review – the wonders of bee life

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Richard Lea

Brexit provides the perfect ingredients for a national food crisis

2 weeks 4 days ago
When it comes to the UK’s supply chain, preparations for a no-deal scenario are non-existent

In 1941, the refrigeration company William Douglas and Sons completed work on a brick-and-steel-frame cold store for meat and fish, on a site at Goldsborough in North Yorkshire. Although the building was demolished a couple of years ago, Theresa May and her newly appointed Brexit secretary, Dominic Raab, might still like to have a look at the site, to get a sense of what the central management of a food supply chain crisis really looks like. Because right now they don’t seem to have the first clue. It’s vast and it sits alongside what was once a railway track. What’s more, it’s only one of 43 built that year around the country, alongside 40 grain stores. And all for a population only a little more than half that of today’s.

Last week, in evidence to the Brexit select committee, Raab announced that the government would be working to secure “adequate food supplies” in the event of a no-deal Brexit, which could impede the free flow across our borders of the 30% of our food currently imported from the EU. No, the government itself would not be stockpiling food. Quite right. It doesn’t have a way of doing so. Instead, it would be up to the food industry to deal with it. They are comments that have left the entire British food supply chain – farmers, producers and retailers – utterly baffled.

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Jay Rayner

The Observer view on Europe’s ban on gene-editing crops | Observer editorial

2 weeks 4 days ago

This absurd ruling restricts highly targeted plant breeding but allows random changes caused by carcinogenic chemicals

We live on a planet where human numbers are expected to swell to more than 11 billion by the end of the century. At the same time, global warming is destined to alter our climate dramatically and, in many regions, erode our ability to feed the burgeoning population. Much will depend on our ability to use advanced scientific techniques, responsibly controlled, to produce the food we need while addressing environmental concerns.

The Observer is the world's oldest Sunday newspaper, founded in 1791. It is published by Guardian News & Media and is editorially independent.

Crispr, or to give it its full name, Crispr-Cas9, allows scientists to precisely target and edit pieces of the genome. Crispr is a guide molecule made of RNA, that allows a specific site of interest on the DNA double helix to be targeted. The RNA molecule is attached to Cas9, a bacterial enzyme that works as a pair of "molecular scissors" to cut the DNA at the exact point required. This allows scientists to cut, paste and delete single letters of genetic code. 

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Observer editorial

Farmers in drought summit amid fears of food supply crisis

2 weeks 4 days ago

Farmers’ representatives and government officials meet to tackle impact of the prolonged dry weather

Farmers are to meet with Whitehall officials this week for an emergency drought summit amid fears that the heatwave could have a serious impact on the UK’s food supply.

What the National Farmers Union describes as “tinderbox conditions” have severely reduced grass growth and depleted yields for many crops, leading to concerns that there will be a shortage of feed for livestock and dairy farmers later in the year. Concerns about the fragility of the UK’s food chain come at a sensitive time after the Brexit secretary, Dominic Raab, admitted last week that the government was taking steps to ensure that there were “adequate” supplies for Britain in the event of a no-deal departure from the European Union. The revelation led to speculation that the UK might be forced to start stockpiling food.

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Jamie Doward

As Brexit looms, stockpiling food seems the only sensible response | Ian Jack

2 weeks 5 days ago

I’m not spreading fear and alarm. A government as inept as this one cannot be trusted to feed us

Earlier this year Sweden’s government delivered leaflets to 4.8m Swedish households, inviting them to consider how they could best cope in a situation of “major strain … in which society’s normal services are not working as they usually do”. The government had in mind all kinds of crises – natural disasters, terrorism, cyber attacks, all-out war – but the basic survival strategy for all of them was the food hoard.

The leaflet recommended that every home lay down a stock of non-perishables: specifically breadstuffs with a long shelf-life (the leaflet mentioned tortillas and crackers), dried lentils and beans, tinned hummus and sardines, ravioli, rice, instant mashed potato, energy bars – and an old Swedish favourite “rosehip soup”, presumably to remind families huddled in the candlelight of their sun-dappled days in the forest.

Related: Stockpile food in the event of a no-deal Brexit? Dream on | James Ball

Related: No-deal Brexit risks 'civil unrest', warns Amazon's UK boss

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Ian Jack

Heatwave pushes up UK fruit and vegetable prices as yields fall

2 weeks 6 days ago

Farmers are struggling to raise crops, which stop growing in temperatures above 25C

Weeks of warm dry weather have taken their toll on fruit and vegetable growers. Parts of England have had no rain for more than 50 days, and the Agricultural and Horticultural Development Board has said it is the driest runup to harvest in 80 years. Many plants stop growing once temperatures top 25C, and crops without irrigation are especially struggling.

Related: British farmers fear fire as heatwave creates 'tinderbox'

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Sarah Butler

Farmers across UK braced for heavy rain and thunderstorms

2 weeks 6 days ago

Sudden weather change after weeks of drought could cause flooding and crop damage

Farmers across many parts of the UK are bracing themselves for thunderstorms and outbursts of heavy rain after weeks of drought and high temperatures.

The sudden change in the weather, expected to affect eastern areas hardest but spreading to the north and Midlands over Friday, is likely to cause problems of flooding and potential crop damage.

Related: Sunscreen for cows: UK farmers struggle to cope with heatwave

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Fiona Harvey Environment correspondent

Stockpile food in the event of a no-deal Brexit? Dream on | James Ball

3 weeks ago

Our supply chains work on a ‘just in time’ basis and have neither the space nor the money for a surplus. Dominic Raab, take note

The government is spending the summer trying to prove to its backbenchers, the public and the EU that it is genuinely prepared for a “no deal” Brexit, and has plans to manage the massive disruption – most would say chaos – that would ensue if the UK and EU failed to secure a deal.

It might have any number of reasons for doing this. It could be throwing red meat to its backbenchers, to try to show that a no deal hasn’t been ruled out. It could be trying to influence EU negotiators, either by showing that the UK has plans in place, or by suggesting that the negotiators take the blame for the consequences of no deal. It may even be trying to reassure us that it knows what it is doing.

The food sector is a finely tuned machine; a no-deal Brexit would result in it grinding to a halt

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James Ball

Gene-edited plants and animals are GM foods, EU court rules

3 weeks 1 day ago

Landmark decision means gene-edited plants and animals will be regulated under the same rules as genetically modified organisms

Plants and animals created by innovative gene-editing technology have been genetically modified and should be regulated as such, the EU’s top court has ruled.

The landmark decision ends 10 years of debate in Europe about what is – and is not – a GM food, with a victory for environmentalists, and a bitter blow to Europe’s biotech industry.

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Arthur Neslen

British farmers fear fire as heatwave creates 'tinderbox'

3 weeks 1 day ago

Wildfire is now an over-riding concern for many farmers, who are taking extra precautions to stop fires spreading as the hot spell continues

“It’s like a tinderbox out here,” says Lesley Chandler, looking down at parched fields where bleached-out grass struggles through baked, stone-hard earth. “Just a spark could set it all alight.”

Chandler farms 200 acres of arable land in Oxfordshire, where there has been virtually no rain for weeks. Pastures that would normally boast grass nearly a foot tall have instead a thin cover of dried-out vegetation.

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Fiona Harvey Environment correspondent

Renewables jobs at risk unless emissions reduction target ramped up

3 weeks 1 day ago

Analysis suggests 15,000 jobs at risk because of lack of new renewable projects under national energy guarantee

Activist groups are intensifying efforts to persuade Australia’s states and territories to demand the 26% emissions reduction target in the national energy guarantee be ramped up, with new analysis suggesting jobs in renewable energy will be lost.

A new projection from Green Energy Markets, funded by GetUp, says up to 15,000 jobs in large scale renewables projects in Queensland and Victoria are at risk unless the Neg’s emissions reduction targets are increased.

Related: Architects of energy policy tell states they can sign up even if they don't agree with emissions targets

Related: Sanjeev Gupta: Coal power is no longer cheaper – and we'll prove it

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Paul Karp and Amy Remeikis
3 hours 48 minutes ago | Farming
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