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Weekly Overview: Water, GM Crops and Product Sustainability

25 March 2013

ANALYSIS - Sustainability is the theme of this week. Last Friday was World Water Day, which was marked with the release of a new report on the growing threat of water scarcity in many regions. Surprisingly few food companies monitor the sustainability of their ingredients, according to a new report. The debate over genetic modification has been revived in the EU as the Commission considers the authorisation of new GM crops. FMD and ASF rumble on in Russia.

Sustainability is becoming a major item for the food industry around the world as resources become more restricted and demand grows. However, many companies are not actively monitoring or measuring the sustainability of the materials they source.

A new report, entitled Driving Sustainability from LEAF (Linking Environment and Farming) was launched at the International Food Event in London recently. It showed that while a vast majority of companies believe sustainability to be increasingly important - 82 per cent of companies surveyed - only 19 per cent monitored the sustainability of the products they sourced.

Last Friday - 22 March - was World Water Day. It is held each year as a means of focusing attention on the importance of freshwater and advocating for the sustainable management of freshwater resources.

As events were taking place around the world to mark the occasion and to highlight the importance and need for water sustainability, the Worldwatch Institute released a study examining global water use and steps to address water scarcity.

The debate over genetically modified (GM) crops in the European Union was reignited last week with the launch of a new campaign hoping to halt the authorisation of 25 new GM crops in Europe.

Campaigners from protest group, Stop the Crop, claim that such a move would drastically change farming in Europe, leading to a big increase in pesticide use, contamination of conventional and organic crops and a further industrialisation of the countryside.

The European Commission is currently considering reviving talks to approve 25 new GM crops for cultivation in Europe – including crops resistant to the pesticide RoundUp and insecticide-producing varieties of GM maize, soybean and sugar beet. Stop the Crop claims that GM crops are "unnecessary, risky and profit large multinational companies at the expense of small-scale and sustainable farming".

Mute Schimpf, food campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe said: "This campaign aims to stop further genetically modified crops from being licensed in the European Union."

UK Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson, highlighted the benefits of GM crops at this year's Oxford Farming Conference, stating that in terms of innovation, GM crops should not be overlooked.

He said: "I believe that GM offers great opportunities but I also recognise that we owe a duty to the public to reassure them that it is a safe and beneficial innovation."

Turning to other news, EU farm ministers and union representatives have welcomed the deal struck between member states last week on the cornerstones of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

And finally, rounding up the global news on pig health, foot and mouth disease (FMD) has been reported in pigs and other animals in Russia, while African Swine Fever (ASF) has been found in samples taken from wild boars in Tver and Tula. In the UK, the elimination of swine dysentery is emerging as a priority and BPEX estimates that pleurisy could cost as much as £3.72 for each pig slaughtered. US pork producers remain committed to regional efforts to control PRRS. In China, the number of dead pigs removed from the Huangpu River in Shanghai has now exceeded 10,000.

Jackie Linden

Jackie Linden

Top image via Shutterstock

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