Agriculture

USDA's Conner: Crop supplies "dicey" in 2008
December 20, 2007 02:38 PM - Charles Abbott, Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. farmers will win the race to grow enough corn, wheat and soybeans to satisfy food, feed and biofuel needs although 2008 will be "very dicey," said acting Agriculture Secretary Chuck Conner on Thursday. "I would never bet against our farmers on this issue," Conner said in looking ahead to 2008 crops. For the second year in a row, zooming demand for U.S. crops will require a huge harvest to avoid shortfalls. "We have said it is going to be very dicey."

EU ministers stall new soil protection rules
December 20, 2007 12:38 PM - Reuters

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union environment ministers put new rules to protect soil in the bloc on a backburner on Thursday after a coalition led by Britain and Germany blocked the adoption of a draft law. The bill had sought to prevent the soil's deterioration from industrial use and the effects of climate change. It would have obliged the EU's 27 nations to set up public inventories of sites where soil may be contaminated with dangerous substances and lay out ways to clean them up. "There was a blocking minority against the soil directive. Maybe we will return to it in the future, but it is unclear when," an EU diplomat said. The diplomat said advocates of the planned law had failed to muster a qualified majority to adopt it when Britain, Germany France, Austria and the Netherlands voted against.

Grow more food in cities, U.N. agency tells Asia
December 19, 2007 12:54 PM - Reuters

GENEVA (Reuters) - Asian nations, many at risk from climate change, must invest more in urban and indoor farming to help feed the hundreds of millions of people in their growing cities, the World Meteorological Organisation said on Wednesday. Of the 10 countries most affected by extreme weather in 2006, seven were Asian -- Afghanistan, China, India, Indonesia, North Korea, the Philippines and Vietnam, said the WMO, the U.N. agency looking at weather, climate and water problems.

Saving Plants that Save Lives
December 19, 2007 08:33 AM - WWF Newsroom

Poor or non-existent collection controls are threatening the survival of many of the plant species used in traditional and modern medicines. On some estimates, 15,000 of the 50,000 — 70,000 plant species used for medicinal purposes and mostly collected from the wild may be threatened, many as a direct result of unsustainable collection practices.

Some Ants Change Their Diet To Survive, Thrive
December 18, 2007 02:00 PM - UC San Diego Newswire

San Diego, California - The ability of Argentine ants to change from carnivorous insect eaters to plant sap-loving creatures has helped these invasive social insects rapidly spread throughout coastal California, according to a new study, displacing many native insects and creating ant infestations familiar to most coastal residents.

Canada says no risks from new mad cow case
December 18, 2007 11:43 AM - Reuters

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada confirmed a new case of mad cow disease on Tuesday, the 11th since 2003, and said the animal in question was a 13-year-old beef cow from Alberta. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency said no part of the animal's carcass had entered the human or animal food supply. The cow was born before Canada introduced a ban in 1997 on cattle feed that contained ingredients made from rendered cattle and other ruminants. Authorities blame suspect feed for most of the previous cases of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), known as mad cow disease. The CFIA repeated its statement that it expected to find a few cases of BSE over the next 10 years.

EU makes sheep and goat tags compulsory by end of '09
December 17, 2007 11:27 AM - Reuters

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - EU ministers agreed on Monday to introduce electronic tags for millions of sheep and goats across the European Union by the end of 2009, part of a strategy to prevent epidemics of contagious diseases like foot-and-mouth. Back in December 2003, the bloc's farm ministers agreed new animal tagging rules to replace a system where only flocks of sheep and herds of goats are tracked when moved from farm to farm, sold at market or sent for slaughter.

Organic Tomato study provides answers, raises questions
December 16, 2007 12:12 PM - Paul Schaefer, ENN

DAVIS -- A study of organic and conventionally grown processing tomatoes by a team of researchers at the University of California, Davis, indicated that, on the four participating commercial farms, organically produced tomatoes were higher in sugars and other soluble solids, consistency and acidity, all of which are desirable attributes in processing tomatoes. The organically grown tomatoes were lower, however, in red color, vitamin C and certain healthful compounds known as phenolics.

Chinese Researchers: Climate Change 'Boosts Plant Health In China'
December 15, 2007 02:33 PM - Wang Shu and Jia Hepeng, SciDevNet

BEIJING - Climate change has helped plants in China become more robust, according to a study by Chinese scientists.  Scientists at the Beijing Normal University studied the link between climate factors and changes in plants' net primary productivity — a term used to evaluate the net reserve energy plants need during growth — between 1982 and 1999. "If the net primary productivity of a plant is high, it means the plant grows more healthily," says lead author Zhu Wenquan of the College of Resources at the university.

U.S. food inflation parallels 70s on ethanol boom
December 14, 2007 04:58 PM - Christine Stebbins, Reuters

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Rising U.S. food inflation, now a 25-year high, is reminiscent of the 1970s and will continue for the next five years due to growing world economies, increased food demand and a sharp expansion of corn-based ethanol production, a top food economist said on Friday.

"What happened in the early '70s and what is happening today is that we have moved food input price to a new plateau. Ultimately, the consumer is going to have to absorb those increased costs," said Bill Lapp, president of Advanced Economic Solutions, who on Thursday released a study that looked at food inflation data going back to the 1960s.

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