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Fri09222017

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Food companies spend $45m to defeat California GM label bill

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altMonsanto and other agribusiness and food companies have spent more than $45m (£28m) to defeat a California ballot measure that would require labelling of some GM foods. The measure, proposition 37, is one of the most contentious initiatives on California's election ballot on Tuesday.

If it passes, it would require labels on GM food sold in supermarkets, but would not cover restaurants. It also has a number of gaping loopholes. For example, the law would not require labels on meat from animals that were fed GM corn.

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UK sustainable palm oil targets are too weak, say retailers

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altRetail bodies and charities have criticised the government for setting "weak" targets on the use of sustainable palm oil.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) yesterday asked retailers, manufacturers and charities to sign up to "work towards" ensuring that, by 2015, all palm oil used in food and other products is responsibly produced and does not contribute to deforestation.

But the British Retail Consortium (BRC) said that while the government deserved praise for putting the palm oil issue on the agenda, many of its members had already made more ambitious commitments. The BRC wants other sectors to commit to nothing less than the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) standards for sustainable palm oil.

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Bad weather hits British honey production

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altRain and cold weather this summer saw honey yields from hives fall by almost three-quarters, the British Beekeepers Association (BBKA) said today. The average crop per hive was down 72% compared to 2011, with just 3.6kg (8lb) of honey produced compared to an annual average of 30lb (13.6kg), the annual honey survey by the BBKA revealed.

The survey of 2,712 beekeepers in England, Northern Ireland and Wales found that 88% said this summer's bad weather caused the fall in honey yields.

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If extreme weather becomes the norm, starvation awaits

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altI believe we might have made a mistake: a mistake whose consequences, if I am right, would be hard to overstate. I think the forecasts for world food production could be entirely wrong. Food prices are rising again, partly because of the damage done to crops in the northern hemisphere by ferocious weather. In the US, Russia and Ukraine, grain crops were clobbered by remarkable droughts. In parts of northern Europe, such as the UK, they were pummelled by endless rain.

Even so, this is not, as a report in the Guardian claimed last week, "one of the worst global harvests in years". It's one of the best. World grain production last year was the highest on record; this year's crop is just 2.6% smaller. The problem is that, thanks to the combination of a rising population and the immoral diversion of so much grain into animal feed and biofuels, a new record must be set every year. Though 2012's is the third biggest global harvest in history (after 2011 and 2008), this is also a year of food deficit, in which we will consume 28m tonnes more grain than farmers produced. If 2013's harvest does not establish a new world record, the poor are in serious trouble.

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Fukushima fish 'may be inedible for a decade'

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altFish from the waters around the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan could be too radioactive to eat for a decade to come, as samples show that radioactivity levels remain elevated and show little sign of coming down, a marine scientist has warned.

According to a paper published in the journal Science on Thursday, large and bottom-dwelling species carry most risk, which means cod, flounder, halibut, pollock, skate and sole from the waters in question could be off limits for years.

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