Farming

McDonald’s Promise Sustainable Beef

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McDonald’s, the biggest purchaser of beef in the US has promised that it will begin buying beef from a verified and sustainable source by 2016.

There is a but… They don’t know what verified sustainable beef actually is!

There is no definition of beef, for anybody that is, so this claim by McDonald’s is ambitious in more ways than one I guess. On the plus side McDonald’s are working with suppliers such as Wal-Mart to come with a definition they can work within, but this sounds a bit like asking a fox to guard the chickens. It’ll be a definition that suits McDonald’s but which may not actually resemble anything you or I might understand as beef. So on the negative side the players are setting the rules!

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When I go to my local butcher and ask for a cut of beef I fairly well know what I’m looking at is beef. This might not be so clear with a McDonald’s definition I venture. Beef could end-up being something that’s mechanically reclaimed beef which is roughly equivalent in terms of protein content.

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Bob Langert, McDonald’s vice president has explained that they are not ready to give a figure for how much beef will be from a verifiable sustainable source in 2016, its an “aspirational goal” he says, you better believe it if they don’t actually know what beef is I reckon. But it has been speculated that the process to get from zero to 100% beef from verifiable sustainable sources could take 10-years.

But think about this for a moment; the route the beef takes – cattle farm – suppliers – slaughter houses – patty makers… burger on a bun.  All parts of the supply chain act independently with each taking a profit and still we have the £1.99 Happy Meal!

How do they do it for the money?

Nonetheless verifiable sustainable beef or not a McDonald’s burger will still be 550 calories, and half the recommended level of fat for a day.

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Food Alert!

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If nothing changes by the end of 2014 the TAFTA (Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement) will be in force; a catastrophe for those who believe that food and drink are serious issues not to be messed about with so much.

If the agreement comes into force as planned then you will soon be saying hello to genetically modified milk, beef hormones, and chlorinated chicken, not to mention shale gas and oil… And then you will have to say farewell to managed environments, free-range, freedom foods, and a pleasant and green landscape pleasing to the eye as well as our collective conciseness. The influx of products will adversely affect our European food security for what I ask? A populist agenda and cheap shopping!

This project opens the doors to American domination so that they can make by 2029 $0.03 per person with nothing in it for Europeans I venture. The deal will remove trade barriers and tariffs designed to keep safe our own food supply, our own farms and associated businesses. American companies will enjoy commercial equality with our European companies. European jobs will be lost, a new recession is peering at us over the horizon at the end of the decade.

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European social structures will be damaged, possibly beyond repair by this agreement. Social standards will be diminished, economic standards will be diminished, industrial, cultural, and personal freedoms will be diminished because this agreement will attack our basic democratic freedoms through an unprecedented level of influence that will be exercised by the American mega-companies vying to control our food supply chains.

What gain for Europe? Well its suggested that Europe will gain 0.5% of total European GDP but its also said that this figure should be treated with scepticism, it might not happen!

There is also the further very thorny issue of energy supply. The agreement allows for free trade across Europe of energy supply but there is no universality of agreement between European states on the status of energy supply. In some countries certain types of energy (shale gas) is illegal. This is without question a massive area of concern not currently addressed by the agreement or the EU. Democratic rights will certainly be trampled under the American free trade boot when it comes to energy supply.

The European project seems to be under threat from our American cousins attempts to sell Europe food and energy that it does not need or want in most cases. Do we honestly need more Americanisms? Our food is currently too fast, more not less McDonald’s cannot surly be a good thing.

Ban GM!

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Yesterday; Thursday 1 Aug. 2013 a French court did something I would have thought impossible (if not legally impossible I would have thought culturally impossible).  They overturned a government decision to ban a Monsanto (MON810) GM corn product.

Reason:  the GM corn does not pose a major risk or present an emergency situation.

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A moratorium on MON810 corn — one of just two types of genetically modified food crops whose cultivation is approved by the European Union — has been in place in France since March 2012.  But the Council of State Court said the moratorium had little legal basis.  It said that EU regulations say such a ban “can only be taken by a member state in case of an emergency or if a situation poses a major risk” to the health of people or animals, or to the environment.”

France’s Agriculture Minister M Stephane Le Foll replied that the government “is not in favour of GM, especially MON810 which is a corn that is resistant to herbicides.”

The reality is that MON810 is grown in very small quantities in Spain and Portugal who are more accommodating than the vast majority of other EU States.

I’m not so sure now that the principal of precaution is being fully enacted by the French Courts who seem to have taken leave of their collective senses. French growing GM? Honestly?

Leave GM to the Yanks, they invented the stuff let them keep the stuff. Humans (and animals for that matter) have managed perfectly well for millennia without GM so why have it now.  Monsanto et al want to enslave world farming to their products and GM is the key to unlock (and then lock the door behind the unsuspecting farmer) that particular cell.

My question therefore is:  Where is Jose Bove when you need him? 

Franken-Food; GM Crops

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Right so I think its probably fair to say from the title of this post right from the off you can guess where I am on the GM Crop debate.

British Environment Secretary Owen Patterson is about to re-open the debate in Britain with a bias toward allowing these crops to be commercially planted, harvested and sold into the food-chain.  Paterson, who has previously expressed his backing for GM, will say that government, scientists and industry “owe a duty to the British public to reassure them that GM is a safe, proven and beneficial innovation” for farmers and consumers.

Well they may, off this reassurance; but frankly I DON’T BELIEVE IT IS!!!!!  I don’t believe they are anywhere near safe to be absolutely clear on the point.

Patterson will claim that there are potentially significant economic and environmental benefits to growing GM produce, including increasing yields, protecting crops from disease and reducing the use of pesticides and chemicals.  I think he might just be blinded by the initial economic benefits but this waffle about environmental benefit I really don’t know how he’s going to sell that one.

The thing with GM is that farmers are forced to buy the fertilizer and pesticides from the same company that sells them the crop seeds and that’s the economic benefit (for the Agi-Chemical business that is).  The intensity of the farming practices will deplete soil quality and structure leading inevitably to more extensive use of fertilizer and pesticides.  Its basically a way of exhausting the soils which can only lead to eventual crop failures or more likely small farm failures.  It will lead to super-farms, homogenized food stuffs, low prices, but high profit margins for the producers and sellers.

The claim is that GM will help in combating the effects of climate change (whether you think its man-made, natural or a combination of the two climate change theories).  He will further suggest that the intensity of GM will allow land to be left undeveloped for wild-life.  If you swallow that one I think they just won the argument, it ain’t gonna happen I assure you!

Patterson says Europe is “missing out” on the technology, which is now used on 12% of arable land around the world, and which globally farmers are growing, governments are licensing and consumers are buying.  “While the rest of the world is ploughing ahead and reaping the benefits of new technologies, Europe risks being left behind.  “We cannot afford to let that happen.”

He will call for the UK to be at the forefront of developing GM technology.

There is just one site in the UK where GM is on trial but many of our livestock are fed on grain and foods from around the globe so GM is in the UK albeit disguised as animal feed.

Friends of the Earth’s head of policy, research and science Mike Childs has said: “Despite decades of research, there are still no miracle crops to tackle the challenges agriculture faces, such as climate change, soil degradation, water shortages and growing demand.”

BASICALLY IT DOESN’T WORK, so I’d say stop doing GM crops and concentrate on something that is worth doing.  The argument is not made, in-fact I’d go so far as to say the argument is lost.  Ask those cash crop farmers in Eastern-Africa how they fair with the Agri-Chemical Businesses.

My bet is the story goes along the lines of:

  1. Had to stop growing real food for local consumption
  2. Got a big cash pay-out up-front (this is the bribe bit really)
  3. Started growing GM cash crops – it was okay to start with
  4. Then had to get fertilizer and pesticides but could only get them from the Agri-Chemical supplier
  5. Fertilizer and pesticides are really expensive
  6. Commodity values of my cash crop have dropped so I don’t get paid what I used to
  7. I sold my land to survive and now I rent the land I used to own
  8. I’m now poorer than ever, my neighbors are starving and cannot afford the imported food prices they now have to pay

Can I suggest that we drop the idea of GM, go back to farming real food locally and feeding the people that live in our nation with good honest food.  The government could help by encouraging the unemployed to learn how to grow food, tax could be reconfigured to make home-grown food more advantageous to buy.  Link these ideas up with other government initiatives and we begin on the route to self-sustainable food supply.

The planet benefits from not being quite so stressed.

People benefit from good, healthy, fresh, affordable food.

The unemployed benefit from having something to learn, do and earn from.

This might sound a bit like a Kibbutz attitude but heck it could work you know.