Ration threat

April 5, 2008

The United Nations agency is threatening a food ration on millions to combat starvation due to the rise in fuel and grain costs.

It has been reported that a extra $500m donation is needed to prevent food rationing from occurring. An emergency appeal has been sent out to 80 governments by the World Food Programme (WFP) with a plea for money to be donated by May 1st. $375m is needed for their food budget and a further $175m is needed to cover transport costs. This is on top of their $2.9bn annual appeal to donor countries.

If the appeal fails to work and the money is not received the health of millions will be seriously affected. Food supplies are handed out to millions of refugees and malnourished people every year and this will have to be cut if the sum is not received.

83 million people were supported with emergency aid by the WFP last year however this will have to significantly lower in order to meet the demand of increased food costs.

There have been severe shortages of bread supplies in Egypt. Long queues form outside bakeries which have lead to disturbances where at least two deaths have occurred as a consequence.

There have also been food riots in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Senegal and Morocco which the WFP view as “evidence of a growing crisis”.

 

Image from Flickr by biocrime

 

Officials of the WFP said last month that global prices of basic foods are rising due to increased demands for animal feed from growing populations such as India and China for more land and agricultural produce for bio-fuels and climate change.

Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary general called the food shortage “the new face of hunger”. He also added that communities that were previously protected are now becoming at risk of food shortages. To help combat this problem farmer’s in developing countries need to begin to benefit from the increase food prices and receive more investment.

Josette Sheeran, the executive director of the WFP said “we urge your government to act quickly on this request so that we may avoid cutting the rations for those who rely on the world to stand by them in times of abject need.”

 

The British Egg Information Service (BEIS) has recently revealed that free range egg sales are now higher than battery egg sales. 

50% of eggs sold in February were free range, 41% of egg sales were from caged chickens and the remaining 9% of the egg sales were from either organic or barn reared chickens.

In February this year sales of free range eggs grew by 20% in volume. This makes one in ten eggs sold in supermarkets free range.  

Finn Cottle, the Noble Food Group marketing director said “The increased consumption of eggs is encouraging, especially as the prices of eggs have risen recently as a result of much higher wheat prices for producers”. 

The price of free range eggs has risen over the past year for example a dozen of free range eggs from Tesco 12 months ago cost £1.62, six moths later it had risen to £1.75 and now the cost lies at £2.55. The price growth is similar to many other large chain supermarkets however it has clearly not effected the growth in sales of free range eggs. 

Waitrose, Marks and Spencer’s and now the Co-Op only stock free range eggs supporting the welfare of chickens as well as meeting the increased consumer demands for free range. 

Image from Flickr by shadyq80

So what has spurred our increased need for free range eggs? 

Andrew Parker, Chairman of the BEIS said the increase in free range egg popularity is due to “the wealth of scientific evidence showing that eggs are good for you as well as new research which shows that eggs can help you slim”.

 Another spokes woman from the BEIS also commented that free range sales have had a significant boost since Jamie Oliver’s show Jamie’s Fowl Dinners. This was aired in January this year which highlighted the animal cruelty involved rearing battery chickens. “That growth has continued in February and beyond. There has been an explosion in the first three months of the year”.  

Robert Chapman, a farmer from Aberdeenshire who runs Farmly Eggs has had to increase his free range egg production by 30,000 eggs per week due to popular demand following Jamie’s Fowl Dinners being broadcasted. He said “Normally, when these programmes come on, you get a change for a couple of weeks after them. But this time it’s just kept going. Folk are becoming more aware of how food is produced and where it comes from. All these things are more important to consumers.”

Fuming?

March 12, 2008

Diesel fuelled cars, the greener alternative to petrol run vehicles emitting less CO2 and better fuel efficiency.  

Better for the environment but what about our health? 

A new study released this week claims that inhaling diesel exhaust fumes triggers a stress response in the brain.  

A research team from the Netherlands used 10 volunteers in an enclosed room to expose them to typical levels of diesel fumes found in a busy street. 

The volunteers were exposed to the fumes inside the room for an hour where their brains were scanned and monitored. Once they left the fume filled room the researchers continued scanning. To gain comparative data the research was repeated without the fumes. 

The researchers found that within half an hour of breathing in the diesel fumes there was increased brain activity in the cortex which causes stress. This activity continued to increase after the volunteers had left the enclosure of the room.

Oxygen deprivation in the heart has been speculated to be another bodily response to diesel fumes.

It is still unclear what part of diesel pollution cause these effects. However previous research on rats suggest that minuscule soot particles, major components of diesel exhausts make their way directly to the brain which can only be speculated to be responsible for the effects on the brain.

Research leader Paul Borm said “Further studies are necessary to explore this effect and to assess the relationship between the amount of exposure to particles and the brain’s response, and investigate the clinical implications of these novel findings.”

A spokes person from the ETA (Environmental Transport Association) commented on the environmental health implications of diesel fumes “There is a popular belief that due to their lower average CO2 emissions, diesels are better for the planet. Unfortunately it appears that it is people, particularly those in built-up areas, that may be paying the price”.

The ETA also suggest using their car buyers guide and green driving advice to help reduce your impact on the environment when buying or driving a car.

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Image by Chris Seufert at Flickr 

The Food Standard Agency are reviewing weekly fish intake. 

Last month the Food Standards Agency expressed their concerns about fish farming sustainability.  

Our weekly quota of fish that they recommend currently stands with at least 2 portions a week but the growth of climate change threatening food production they are reviewing their advice in relation to maintaining fish farming sustainability. 

Which fish are at risk? 

 North Sea cod, marlin, skate, big eye tuna and wild Atlantic salmon and Chilean sea bass are a few of the popular consumed fish that are so endangered they could be at risk of disappearing forever due to over fishing.  

What’s being done to tackle the problem? 

Supermarkets such as Waitrose are under way with tackling issues of fish depletion. All their fresh and frozen fish come from well managed fisheries. This includes cod and haddock from fish farms in Iceland and mackerel from farms in Cornwall. All of which focus on producing healthy fish stock that prioritises the sustainability of fish farming.  

The Marine Steward Council (MSC) works together with supermarkets and other fish retailers to make sure their produce has been reared to meet the organisations environmental standards.  

If produce meets the requirements of the MSC they are labelled with the MSC logo. This helps shoppers acknowledge that the produce they are purchasing has come from sustainable farms. 

Are sustainable farms always successful?  

The world’s first organic cod farm- No Catch cod– was launched three years ago hoping  to sustain 10% (30,000 tonnes) of the demand for cod in the UK.  

Sainsbury’s, Tesco’s and Carrefour in France are all supermarkets that began to stock No Catch produce to support their ambitious plans. However the future of the organisation is at threat after running up £40m worth of debt over nearly two years. 

The company employs around 120 people and have already made 14 of these workers redundant to cut the company’s costs. No Catch cod takes three years to rear to full maturity and without the use of artificial feed’s, intervention of chemicals and medicines to sustain their pledge of organic farming has proved to be a very expensive production.  

The shelf price of the cod has also contributed to the debt with the cod being fed on mackerel and herring off-cuts it was selling for as much as 50% more than wild caught cod.  

The future of the No Catch fish farming organisation is still unclear. A number of businesses are interested in taking over the brands name.  

A major Norwegian firm is rumoured to be one of the potential owners however they are said to be more interested in producing high volume salmon, mussels and sea trout than developing their niche market No Catch has already successfully created- sustainable cod farming. 

Jon Harman from The Sea Fish Industry Authority who supports No Catch with market and business information said “Cod farming is in its infancy, and No Catch had ambitious plans to overcome production hurdles and establish a significant brand. As world whitefish supplies adjust to climate change … we are confident that farmed cod will contribute to this supply base, helping to maintain a sustainable resource.”

Greener décor

March 9, 2008

 Graham and Brown have just launched their new range of eco friendly interior collection 

The range has been cleverly designed by Central St Martin students which includes minimally packaged, low emission wall papers. 

Wallpapers emit VOC’s (volatile organic compounds) that contain chemicals that can cause short term and long term health problems.  Many other household products also emit VOC’s such as paints and lacquers, paint strippers, cleaning supplies, pesticides and graphics and craft materials including glues and adhesives.

 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Total Exposure Assessment Methodology studies found that levels of several organic pollutants were 2 to 5 times higher inside homes than outside during and several hours after activities using such products as paint stripper and disinfectants. This was found the same regardless whether the houses were situated in rural areas or heavily industrial areas, we are all still exposed to similar levels of VOC’s. 

So what are the health implications of VOC emissions?

Some people experience eye and respiratory tract irritation, headaches, dizziness, visual disorders, and memory impairment soon after using VOC’s. Many organic compounds also cause cancer in animals and some believed to cause cancer in humans. 

The EPA suggests following these steps to reduce VOC exposure:

  • Use household products according to manufacturer’s directions.
  • Make sure you provide plenty of fresh air when using these products.
  • Throw away unused or little-used containers safely; buy in quantities that you will use soon.
  • Keep out of reach of children and pets.
  • Never mix household care products unless directed on the label.

Graham & Brown “are committed to environmental issues”. All their wallpapers are labelled with The Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) logo which means that the paper has come from sustainable managed forests, those better managed than non-accredited forests.

50% of each roll of wallpaper is also made from renewable resources and their inks and coating are also non acidic which is also much better for the environment and our health.

  For more eco friendly interior check out:

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                 Image by Phil Sharp at Flikr

A new Japanese study finds that the use of mobile phones does not cause brain cancer. 

Last year a government funded £8.8 million, six year research programme by the Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research association revealed that the use of mobile phones was not related to short term health implication. However long term affects were left unaddressed. 

Following this Tokyo’s women’s medical study have conducted further research into the long term affects of mobile phone use by looking at the three main types of brain cancer- glioma, meningioma and pituitary adenoma. 

 The team carried out over 1000 interviews with mobile phone users, 322 of them had been diagnosed with brain cancer. 

They included research into the length of time the participants had been using their mobile phones over years and the length of time their phones were used daily with different types of mobile phones that emitted different strengths of radiation. This was then analysed by taking into account how the emissions would affect different parts of the brain. The full study has been published in the British journal of Cancer.

The research was led by Professor Naohito Yamaguchi who said “Using our newly developed and more accurate techniques, we found no association between mobile phone use and cancer, providing more evidence to suggest they don’t cause brain cancer.

Since the 1980’s mobile phone use has hugely increased however studies show that in this time the number of brain cancer victims has not changed accordingly. 

Cancer Research UK director Dr Lesley Walker said “So far, studies have shown no evidence that mobile use is harmful, but we can’t be completely sure about their long-term effects. Research is still ongoing and Cancer Research UK will continue to look for new evidence.”

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Image by Oi at Flickr

New research suggests that British nuclear plant workers are more likely to suffer from heart attacks than cancer from occupational radiation. 

The study used 64,937 individuals that worked at plants across Britain from 1946-2005. The researchers used personal dosimeters on the majority of the workers that were classified as “radiation workers” to measure their individual radiation exposure.  

The study found a clear link between the rise in radiation exposure and the occurrence of heart attack, the higher exposure to radiation the greater chance of developing circulatory health problems.

 In 1980 new technologies were brought into the nuclear plants that control and reduce radiation exposure. Therefore those working on the plants before the 80’s are thought to be those at any significant risk of developing circulatory diseases 

200 nuclear plant workers from four of nuclear plants studied have died up to a year earlier than expected. However more research is needed to prove whether or not radiation exposure was the main cause of their deaths. 

Other contributing factors such as diet, exercise and stress have not been ruled out completely. Michael Gillies, a statistician on the study team said “Many studies associate these factors with an increased risk of circulatory disease and this is clearly something that requires more detailed investigation.”

www.environmentalnewsonline.com is going live! Enthusiastic Birmingham City journalists have created a interesting and informative website that covers a huge variety of environmental news and issues so take a look and feel free to leave comments and feedback.

National public health week?

February 28, 2008

Were all very aware currently that we should prevent from using plastic bags, switch lights off when not needed and buy free range to protect the chickens. I thought this was all brilliant- the UK’s getting greener!

However when I found out that America has a public health week that focuses on the environmental issues that affect their health.

http://www.nphw.org/nphw08/08_pg_about.htm

It got me wondering if I’d been totally oblivious to the UK’s health week. Where was ours? I googled away and found that we have Fair trade fortnight, Obesity awareness week, Hospital broadcasting week, Recycle now week, World environment day, National organic week and National tree week that all focus on providing the nation with environmental and health issues but I’m afraid to say I’d not heard of a single one of them. I felt rather guilty that I’d been totally unaware of such weeks and days.

Public health week has been up and running since 1996 making a certain environmental issue a main concern each year. This year’s main concerns the association will be fronting are the effects of climate change on our health. They aim to raise awareness and to educate the public, policy makers and public health professionals about climate change effects of when they will happen rather than if.

By highlighting the impacts of climate change on the environment and health they hope to influence Americans to lead their lives in a healthier more environmentally friendly way that will help manage and lessen the impacts of climate change.

I’m all for supporting fair trade week and other environmental awareness weeks now I’ve been made aware that they exist. But if were going to make a visible difference on the environment maybe a UK health week needs to established.

Ethical eating

February 26, 2008

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