theguardian.com | Farming

Pesticides are good for profits, not for people | Letters

1 month 1 week ago
It’s time to clean up agriculture and adopt a non-chemical farming policy, says Georgina Downs

So the head of Syngenta, the world’s biggest pesticide maker, urges the continued use of pesticides in agriculture (Pesticide maker says curbs would lead to food crisis in 10 years, 18 June). This is hardly breaking news. Can anybody really be surprised at such a stance from any of the companies that produce these chemicals when their primary concern is to protect profits and to keep pesticides being used.

Considering sales of pesticides in the UK each year are worth about £627m and the world pesticides industry has been valued at $58bn, this is very big business with powerful, vested interests.

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Letters

Why school trips to abattoirs are essential

1 month 1 week ago

Countryfile presenter Tom Heap is right to call for school visits to slaughterhouses. It is time children learned the truth about food production

If the slaughterhouses had glass walls, would anyone still buy their meat?

As a vegan, I support Countryfile presenter Tom Heap’s call for children to be taken on school trips to abattoirs. Why not – if you think the truth about what you eat is so horrific it must be kept secret, doesn’t that mean you are helping to cover up something you think is horrific?

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Chas Newkey-Burden

Chicken mega-farms are how we'll feed the UK, says poultry industry head

1 month 1 week ago

British consumers eat chicken twice a week. Are large farms the only way forward?

Britain will need to build more mega-farms to keep it supplied with chicken, according to the head of the UK’s influential poultry lobby.

But the biggest threat to UK consumers, he believes, comes from cheap imported meat – “chlorinated chicken” – produced to lower standards as a result of post-Brexit trade deals.

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Andrew Wasley

Country diary: a swift blast of beetle mania

1 month 1 week ago

Raveningham, Norfolk: Soon my yellow shirt is smothered in tiny black dots, and across the field there must be millions of pollen beetles

“Just passionate about life” is how Jake Fiennes, manager at this Yare valley estate, defines his approach to his job. It is also the phrase he uses to dodge my question about whether he’s a farmer or an environmentalist. For him the two are inextricably fused.

After haring across the valley on his tipoff, I find him combining both roles as he contemplates a field of rape. The 10-hectare plot looks commonplace until I log into the cloud of birds swirling overhead. Had I been here earlier I’d have seen 500 but, as it is, many scores of swifts and house martins swarm above the field. Together they cruise down and spire through the top of the crop, threading and rethreading it in an orgy of hunting.

Related: Saving Britain's swifts - in pictures

Related: Specieswatch: fighting pollen beetles in the margins

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Mark Cocker

CO2 supply issues may trigger meat shortage, processing industry warns

1 month 2 weeks ago

Carbon dioxide supplies could take up to three weeks to return to normal with key gas producers on shutdown

Supplies of carbon dioxide (CO2) may not return to normal levels for another two to three weeks – triggering likely shortages of meat for UK shoppers – the processing industry has warned.

The production of crumpets, beer, fizzy drinks, fresh chicken and pork have been affected by shortages of CO2 over the past two weeks, amid longer than expected shutdowns at ammonia and ethanol plants – key producers of the gas – in the UK and also across Europe.

Related: CO2 shortage could hit UK beer and chicken supplies during World Cup

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Rebecca Smithers

Why farmers are getting behind the science on climate change – Australian politics live

1 month 2 weeks ago

Katharine Murphy talks to Fiona Simson, president of the National Farmers’ Federation, about how farmers attitudes towards climate change are evolving. Simson says dissenters need to ‘get out of the way’ of creating an energy policy framework for the future and calls on politicians to ‘stop picking winners’ and put their trust in the market. Plus, what’s the future for live exports and why more women are needed in politics


‘We’ve turned a corner’: farmers shift on climate change and want a say on energy

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Hosted by Katharine Murphy and produced by Hannah Izzard and Miles Martignoni

'We've turned a corner': farmers shift on climate change and want a say on energy | Katharine Murphy

1 month 2 weeks ago

National Farmers’ Federation head Fiona Simson says people on the land can’t ignore what is right before their eyes

• Podcast: Why farmers are getting behind the science on climate change

Out in the bush, far from the ritualised political jousting in Canberra, attitudes are changing. Regional Australia has turned the corner when it comes to acknowledging the reality of climate change, says the woman now charged with safeguarding the interests of farmers in Canberra.

Related: Farmers' federation lines up against Tony Abbott on national energy guarantee

People are really frustrated at the moment with the politics

Related: Energy minister would welcome new coal-fired power plant

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Katharine Murphy, political editor

Heatwave forces UK farmers into desperate measures to save cattle

1 month 2 weeks ago

Water shortages cause alarm over crop yields and keeping livestock alive

While millions of Britons are enjoying the heatwave, the dry weather is causing problems for farmers who are concerned about their crops and livestock, forcing some into desperate measures to keep their cattle alive.

Guy Smith, the deputy president of the National Farmers Union, said it was too early to predict a disastrous harvest, but every day of heat and lack of rain was likely to make it smaller.

Related: UK heatwave to continue this week as temperatures top 30C

Related: Britain basks in a June heatwave – in pictures

I am conscious that this is the second time residents have been affected by water supply issues in the past 4 months and will be raising this with .@stwater, particulary with regard to the recent report and recommendations from @ofwat after the problems in March

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Matthew Weaver and agencies

China lifts ban on British beef

1 month 2 weeks ago

£250m deal allows official market access negotiations to begin, 20 years after beef was banned following the BSE outbreak

British beef will be back on the menu in China for the first time in more than 20 years, after it officially lifted the longstanding ban on exports from the UK.

More than two decades since the Chinese government first banned British beef after the BSE outbreak, the milestone is the culmination of several years of site inspections in the UK and negotiations between government officials.

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Rebecca Smithers Consumer affairs correspondent

Cheap bacon: how shops and shoppers let down our pigs

1 month 2 weeks ago

With Brexit looming our animal welfare standards are vulnerable. We’ve got welfare reform wrong in the past - how can we get it right in the future?

“When it came to the crunch the retailers let us down,” says Ian Campbell. When he took over the running of a Norfolk farm in the early 1990s, pig farming was a successful, relatively healthy British sector.

But within a few years a government ban on the use of gestation crates, combined with a rise in the value of the pound and a pig meat glut in Europe, would decimate the industry. The number of UK farmers would be nearly halved, while cheap meat from other countries with lower welfare requirements would come flooding in.

Demand for higher welfare pig meat is low - currently just 1-2% of UK pigs are reared as organic or free-range.

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Tom Levitt

The Iowa farmers on the frontline of Trump's trade war with China

1 month 2 weeks ago

Proposed Chinese tariffs on American goods like the soya bean may hit hardest in Iowa, a key state in Trump’s 2016 victory – but farmers there hope the threat of a trade war is just a ‘hiccup’

Ryan Mickelson is a professional gambler. He doesn’t look like it. The solidly built 34-year-old doesn’t start his days in a Las Vegas hotel room nor does he spend his days palming a deck of cards. Instead, he gets up every day in his one-story house a few miles outside Duncombe, a small town with one bar, one church and one post office, and goes to work in the flat green fields of north central Iowa.

Related: Why are America's farmers killing themselves in record numbers?

If something don’t change, there is going to be a lot of farmers going bankrupt.

Related: Trump threatens Harley-Davidson with 'big tax' over its tariff response

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Ben Jacobs in Duncombe, Iowa

Farmers' groups withhold data from $9m Great Barrier Reef water quality program

1 month 2 weeks ago

The government-funded program was designed to reduce polluted run-off to the reef

Agriculture industry groups have refused to show the Queensland government the results of a government-funded program that aims to improve Great Barrier Reef water quality.

The Queensland Audit Office, in a report to parliament, said the farming industry groups had withheld data about the best management practices program due to “privacy concerns” and that its effectiveness might be “overstated”.

Related: Domestic tourism to Great Barrier Reef falls in wake of coral bleaching

Related: Great Barrier Reef: four rivers are most responsible for pollution

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Ben Smee

'Toxic garbage will be sold here': Outcry as Brazil moves to loosen pesticide laws

1 month 2 weeks ago

A controversial bill, dubbed the ‘poison package’, is set to go to Brazilian Congress

A Brazilian Congress commission has approved a controversial bill to lift restrictions on pesticides despite fierce opposition from environmentalists, prosecutors, health and environment ministry bodies, and even United Nations special rapporteurs.

Driven by a powerful agribusiness lobby, the bill now needs to be voted on in both houses of Congress and sanctioned by President Michel Temer before becoming law.

Related: 'The river is dead': what is polluting the water of Brazil's Xikrin tribe? | Naira Hofmeister and José Cícero da Silva

Related: ‘Sexy plants’ on track to replace harmful pesticides to protect crops

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Dom Phillips in Rio de Janeiro

Flying cameras can spot lethal disease sweeping through world's olive groves

1 month 3 weeks ago

Fast-spreading Xylella fastidiosa is devastating species from citrus to oak trees, but can now be detected from the air

A devastating and fast-spreading infection killing olive trees and grapevines around the world can now be detected from the air, long before symptoms are visible to the human eye.

The new technique offers hope in the battle against one of the world’s most dangerous plant pathogens, which can infect some 350 different species, including citrus and almond trees, as well as oaks, elms and sycamores. Special “hyperspectral” cameras provide an early warning system by detecting subtle changes in leaf colour.

Related: Europe must step up action against spread of fatal plant disease, says Gove

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Damian Carrington Environment editor

Brexit allows us to have a national debate about healthy farming | Catherine Broomfield

1 month 3 weeks ago

We all have a vested interest in how we balance the need for food with preserving the natural world. It’s too important to leave to farmers only

Even for those who do not share the Brexiteers’ lust for life unshackled from Europe, there is, as with any divorce, something enticing; a frisson of illicit excitement in the prospect of once again being single.

Reasons for the breakup are many, but the common agricultural policy must be near the top of the list. For 40 years Britain has been subject to its perversities, inefficiencies and unintended consequences, creating bafflement, distrust and a generally dysfunctional relationship between farmers and the public. If there is a prize to be garnered from Brexit, it is in resetting this relationship, so fundamental to the health and wellbeing of people and planet.

In their mutual myopia, the National Farmers' Union and environmental zealots give the public a fallacious choice

Related: Government promises profitable farming post-Brexit

Related: British farmers: what are your hopes and fears after Brexit?

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Catherine Broomfield

Genetically modified animals

1 month 3 weeks ago
Despite its potential to battle disease and hunger, genetically engineered food is still controversial

Last week, scientists from the University of Edinburgh’s Roslin Institute announced they had deleted the section of DNA that leaves pigs vulnerable to porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome, which is estimated to cost European farmers £1.5bn a year in loss of livestock and decreased productivity. Genetically modified animals are banned from the EU food chain, but since this is a new and different technique it’s possible they’ll be appearing in bacon sandwiches in a few years.

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Ian Tucker

Living next door to 17 million chickens: 'We want a normal life'

1 month 3 weeks ago

Ukrainian villagers living in the shadow of Europe’s biggest chicken farm are fighting back – not just against the company but the development banks funding it

The locals call this area the Ryaba-land. That’s the name of the chicken brand Nasha Ryaba under which MHP – the largest poultry company in Ukraine and the owners of Vinnytsia farm - sells poultry meat in supermarkets. There are more chicken sheds than houses here. Even the village signs bear the MHP brand.

There are, as is so often the case, tensions between the industrial farms and the villagers. But in this case, anger is focussed not just on the company, but on their funders – the big international development banks that hand out public money.

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Oksana Grytsenko

Sheep exporter's licence cancellation a federal decision, says WA premier

1 month 3 weeks ago

Mark McGowan says that if the farming lobby has any concerns, it should take this up with Canberra

The Western Australia premier, Mark McGowan, says farmers in the state concerned about the decision to suspend the licence of Australia’s largest sheep exporter should “take it up with the federal government”.

The federal agriculture department announced on Friday it had suspended the live export licence of Perth-based Emanuel Exports pending the outcome of a review into the company’s response to a show cause notice, issued as part of a broader investigation into its animal welfare record.

Related: Live exports licence suspended for Australia's biggest operator

Related: Western Australia defends decision to search live sheep exporter's offices

Related: Live exports: mass animal deaths going unpunished as holes in system revealed

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Calla Wahlquist
Checked
3 hours 47 minutes ago
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